Feds Resurrect “Do Not Track” Concept for Online Ads

According to various reports, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering instituting a “do not track” list, similar in concept to the Do Not Call registry, for Internet users who want their browsing activity hidden from online advertisers.

If implemented, this registry would keep advertisers from tracking your browsing and shopping history via cookies and serving customized ads based on your behavior.

This opt-out solution would be great for consumers who’d rather not have the commercial version of Big Brother watching their every online move while still allowing those more lax in matters of online privacy to benefit from increasingly sophisticated e-commerce technologies.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told members of the Senate Commerce Committee recently, “We may explore in the context of behavioral advertising… a do-not-track mechanism that’s more comprehensive and easier to use than the procedures currently available. Under such a mechanism, users could opt out of behavioral advertising more easily rather than having to make choices on website-by-website basis.”

Back in 2007, similar legislation was proposed. At that time, the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America and the Electronic Frontier Foundation were among the registry’s advocates. These groups also suggested that advertisers should give consumers details about exactly what data they intended to track.

We’re unclear on exactly why this idea wasn’t implemented three years ago. What we do know now is that it’s going to be difficult for the FTC to make these changes when it might not have the deep and wide control it would need to institute such a registry. Moreover, this list is guaranteed to be extremely unpopular in the online ad industry, which itself is one of the main arteries of Internet (Internet) revenue.

We won’t know anything about the fate of this idea for quite some time; whether or not it’s even feasible will be explored in a comprehensive report on online privacy due to be released later this year. If the online ad industry takes proactive steps toward explaining and protecting users’ privacy and data beforehand, the legislation may not even be necessary, Leibowitz noted. -From Mashable’s Do Not Track List Online Ads

As much as you think a “do not track” list is a good idea, it would never happen and here’s why:

1. Online advertising and social media are the backbone of many new start-ups including my own 🙂 Cutting arteries will lead to a slow and painful death not only online but into a deeper and darker depression for the entire country, no industry will be spared.

2. Advances in internet and mobile devices are helping to turn this economy around 99 cents at a time. Why buy an entire CD when I can have the only songs I want for under a buck.

3. Paying for the highest ranking may be take a back seat to social search. Facebook and Google head seperate developments within grasp but a possible release dates are still unknown.

4. Social Media is the purest form of advertising ever created. These platforms demand 100% transparency for every brand to represent their company’s core values online and offline like Rock N Fit on Facebook. People choose to follow brands in social media and advertising within those pipelines is often the biggest bang for your buck if you hire a professional. I tend to focus my social media efforts to increase Simon Mainwaring‘s ROI (Relationships, Opportunity, Involvement) which in turn helps provide my clients with a higher Return On Investment vs other forms of advertising.

5. Even more astounding to pass given the amount of time spent online in the United States by category.

Americans spend nearly a quarter of their time online on social networking sites and blogs, up from 15.8 percent just a year ago (43 percent increase) according to new research released today from The Nielsen Company. The research revealed that Americans spend a third their online time (36 percent) communicating and networking across social networks, blogs, personal email and instant messaging.

  • Online games overtook personal email to become the second most heavily used activity behind social networks – accounting for 10 percent of all U.S. Internet time. Email dropped from 11.5 percent of time to 8.3 percent.
  • Of the most heavily-used sectors, videos/movies was the only other to experience a significant growth in share of U.S. activity online. Its share of activity grew relatively by 12 percent from 3.5 to 3.9 percent. June 2010 was a major milestone for U.S. online video as the number of videos streamed passed the 10 billion mark. The average American consumer streaming online video spent 3 hours 15 minutes doing so during the month.
  • Despite some predictions otherwise, the rise of social networking hasn’t pushed email and instant messaging into obscurity just yet. Although both saw double-digit declines in share of time, email remains as the third heaviest activity online (8.3 percent share of time) while instant messaging is fifth, accounting for four percent of Americans online time.
  • Although the major portals also experienced a double digit decline in share, they remained as the fourth heaviest activity, accounting for 4.4 percent of U.S. time online.
  • From The Nielsen Company’s What Americans Do Online: Social Media And Games Dominate Activity

What effects do you think a “Do Not Track” list would have? Please leave any theories with and relative links in the comments below.

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