Legislators, Regulators Consider 'Do Not Track' Mechanism

Lora Bentley
Slide Show

Top 10 Privacy Issues for 2011

Social media and location-based technologies top the list of concerns.

While the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to vote on net neutrality rules, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and privacy groups are calling for a "Do Not Track" list for Web marketers similar to the "Do Not Call" list telemarketers must respect.


The House Subcommittee for Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection was scheduled to hear testimony on the matter last week in conjunction with an Internet privacy bill sponsored by Rep. Bobby Rush, D.-Ill. At the same time, consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog is calling for Congress to act quickly.


John M. Simpson, who directs the group's Inside Google project, says:

Do Not Track Me is not a panacea, but it would offer clear, easy-to-use privacy protection for consumers. Congress should act immediately to give the FTC the necessary rule making and enforcement authority to implement it. It would be a win-win for consumers and businesses alike.

Reuters blogger Kevin Kelleher explained why Web giants like Facebook and Google would actually benefit from a "Do Not Track" policy. He wrote:

Giving people a simple mechanism of control over whether and when they are tracked would reduce the creep factor. A Do Not Track mechanism would need to allow people to be tracked by sites they trust, just as a Do Not Call list doesn't blindly filter out calls from, say, a company or organization you trust. That could be good news for Google, Facebook and others, which have argued that they want our personal data to make their sites more useful.

On the flip side, of course, the Interactive Advertising Board says a "Do Not Track" mechanism would jeopardize the entire Web experience for the users. According to MRWeb.com, the IAB said in a statement:

Do Not Track is a misnomer because you cannot turn off data sharing online and, if you could, consumers would encounter a severely diminished experience. Policy makers should not promise a consumer protection program' they cannot deliver without disenfranchising the American public.

But like a commenter said just the other day, it's a given the advertisers are going to say it's impossible to turn off tracking. That's how they make their living. What's more interesting is the observers who say "Do Not Track" legislation or regulation is premature. Broadcasting and Cable reports that's exactly what Time Warner EVP Joan Gillman told members of the House Subcommittee for Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection last week. She testified that

do-not-track should not be considered in a vacuum, but needs to be part of a larger conversation about consumer privacy. She said a do-not-track bill would be premature, and that industry 'best practices' self-regulation was the preferable next step.

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