By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
As if marketers don’t have enough to worry about, the FTC is reportedly considering a “Do-Not-Track” registry. This would allow consumers to sign up to have their Web browsing activity hidden from advertisers. (This effort comes after the consumer favorite “Do-Not-Call” bill, which decimated the telemarketing industry and reportedly cost millions of jobs. There have also been “Do-Not-Mail” efforts, prompting me to somewhat facetiously write an article called “The Impending Do-Not-Market Threat.”)
The details of how a “Do-Not-Track” regulation would be accomplished are lacking at this time. But I can’t imagine how this could be effectively implemented, tracked, and enforced. It seems that it would be rife with abuse—and essentially ignored.
As a consumer, I see value in allowing advertisers access to this information, as it theoretically presents me with ads in which I might have interest, as opposed to ads that I find offensive or which have no interest.
However, I do see the privacy aspect of this. It seems to me that a simple solution resides in Web Browser software—not in more regulation—adding an option to suppress this information. Even now, one can manually clear browsing history from their browser and some can automatically clear it each time the browser is opened. It would be one small incremental step to completely suppress this information.
Of course, the other solution is to not surf the Web.
One thing that I do know is that if the FTC’s trial balloon garners widespread interest, our elected officials will get involved, creating a bill of their own. If they do, you can be sure that they will exempt themselves—just as they have done on other legislation in the past, such as with the Do-Not-Call bill!