Is “Do Not Track” a Good Idea?

The FTC is recommending a “Do Not Track” option for Internet users, but will it work for the public good or against it?

Current solutions include an “opt-out” option of receiving behavioral ads using “opt-out cookies,” but these cookies get deleted when users clear out their Internet caches, so they have to opt out all over again.

Other options include browser add-ons that require administrative access to a browser, meaning the add-on has access to otherwise inaccessible user data. And what happens if hackers turn those add-ons into targets?

Some who object to “Do Not Track” as the FTC is proposing it fear that turning it on would effectively prevent them from doing anything on public Internet, like at an Internet café. Others fear it would throw a wrench in the convenience of having cookies to remember login and auto-fill information. So who’s right? I read one comment that said if you prevent advertisers from targeting Web surfers, you make it highly likely that those currently free services, like e-mail, will have to start charging to compensate for the loss of information. And how important is it that marketers effectively target consumers based on history tracking?

Are online ads really that bad? Do you really mind an ad knowing you’re in a certain zip code or that you frequently visit Gap.com? I’m not sure I do, as long as ads continue to be ignorable. I’ll start objecting when I’m forced to view ads, whether they interest me or not.

Microsoft, Mozilla, and Google say they’re working with the FTC; Apple (maker of Safari) declined to comment. Interesting.

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One response to “Is “Do Not Track” a Good Idea?

  • NeoSquirrel

    One must be careful with giving ads freedom: give them an inch, and they’ll take take everything your Facebook profile provides. And FB is affording them new information every chance it gets these days.

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