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Thursday, November 1, 2007

News: Support for ad-tracking opt out

Google targets adverts based on searches
US privacy advocates and consumer bodies are seeking the creation of an opt-out list for internet users who do not want to be tracked by advertisers.

The "do not track" list would prevent companies from tailoring adverts based on a user's web habits.

The groups behind the idea include the Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Consumer Federation of America.

They have approached the Federal Trade Commission to create the list.

The "do not track" list would be similar to the "do not call list" in the US which stops phone advertisers calling households.

Personalised, or social, advertising is expected to be big business in the coming years with Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all purchasing online ad firms in recent months.

The "do not track" list would require advertisers that place electronic cookies or tags on consumers' computers to register with the FTC all domain names of the servers involved in such activities, according to the groups.

"All of this is going to make consumers even more aware of just how much is being tracked
Micro Persuasion

"Online opt-outs should be as well-known and as easy as the Do Not Call list," Mark Cooper, research director of Consumer Federation of America, told Reuters news agency.

The list would prohibit advertisers from collecting and using personally identifiable information about health and financial activities.

It would also require independent auditing of companies using behavioural tracking to ensure they upheld privacy standards.

While many search engines allow users to opt out of personalised services, it often comes at the expense of being able to use mail accounts and other tools.

Steve Rubel, a senior marketing strategist, at Edelman, wrote on his blog Micro Persuasion: "Regardless of where the Feds decide to weigh in, the noise around mining behavioural data and patterns and the potential privacy implications is only going to get louder in the coming months.

"All of this is going to make consumers even more aware of just how much is being tracked."

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