If you’re reading this blog post, you have some stake in the proposal brought up by the FTC this past December. Because of concerns for internet user confidentiality and lack of clarity with privacy settings, the FTC proposed a “no track list” similar to the “no call list” created in 2002 for telemarketers.
In 2011, advertisers and marketers have a much better shot of reaching potential customers through internet than telephone. The catch? Some people don’t realize they are being watched. Entire companies are devoted to tracking the searches, online purchases and general online activities of internet users. That data is compiled into a “profile” of the user and sold to advertising and marketing agencies.
Currently a “suggestion,” the FTC proposal would begin legislation to protect the privacy of internet users. They suggest that the best way to do this would be for internet users to be able to choose a privacy option on their browser that prevents them from being tracked.
Some browsers such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are already beginning to take action to provide a “no track” option for users, upgrading from some features they were already providing to users.
However, there are some problems with the proposal. For the system to work in its current form, website operators must agree to stop tracking and go along with the web browser “no track” command. There is no set system yet, and each web browser is currently using different techniques.
Even if both parties (web browsers and website operators) work together, some websites may recognize that users have opted out of tracking and provide less content to those consumers. Some websites rely on ad based revenue to run and may no longer be able to continue providing a free service to the public. USA Today outlines some interesting implications for advertisers and consumers.
There is certainly a case to be made about protecting the privacy of internet users. Advertisers and companies who collect consumer profiles are not fully forthcoming about their tracking actions. In order for there to be a relationship of trust between advertisers and consumers, internet users need to be aware that they are being watched.
As an advertising student I can also see the perspective of the advertisers. Advertisers have an obligation to their clients to place media in the most effective way possible. If they no longer have a way to target advertisements, they will not be able to deliver results to their clients. Clients will be more hesitant about website advertisements and some website may no longer be able to deliver free content, which ultimately hurts consumers.
So that leaves the question—sacrifice free content or your privacy?