Every week it seems a new wrinkle in the privacy debate makes the news wire. Late last week, the Federal Trade Commission announced preliminary plans for the creation of a Do-Not-Track list. The goal of Do-Not-Track would be to levy stricter regulations on behavioral online ad targeting. Is that a collective gasp I hear along digital advertising channels? Grab a paper bag and take some deep breaths. Upon further examination, there’s not much cause for alarm.
Online advertisers are not telemarketers. They are not hamstrung by the telephone. And their processes for the consumer, notably opt-in and opt-out functionalities, are already user-friendly making Do-Not-Track more of a political tool than an advertising detriment. Do-Not-Track will not reduce the number of ads consumers see. It would prevent ads from being targeted to sites a user has visited. But if a user likes receiving targeted ads, he or she simply wouldn’t subscribe to the list.
Given the attention privacy issues have received this year, it is understandable and somewhat commendable that the government wants to act. But by drafting up weightless and needless legislation, continuing to focus on platforms like Do-Not-Track does not make sense.