In a recent PCWorld report, the Federal Trade Commission strongly suggests it will seek government intervention in order to implement a do-not-track system if the Internet industry does not act on its own.
A do-not-track list would act much like the popular Do Not Call list created to limit unwanted telemarketing calls. The Internet industry has yet to create an easy method for consumers to opt-out of tracking from websites. Opponents of DNT believe the list will harm targeted advertising on the Internet.
Declan McCullagh argued in 2007 that the do-not-track list was a bad idea. His logic was that no one forces Internet users to visit any site. As web users, we have to determine if we trust the site we are viewing and sharing information with. As more people turn to the Internet to receive their news, conduct business and make a living, it is important to protect the consumer. Often, the small print of a website is difficult to find and the admission of the company that they will sell your private information is buried within legalese that would bore a third-year law student.
While I would prefer to not need government intervention, I would welcome the advent of a do-not-track list. I’ve seen in my own Internet use that, regardless of the privacy settings made available to me and the usage of them, my web use is monitored more than I like. Sadly, the Internet advertising industry has done nothing to make it easier for me to conduct my business without my information being gathered.
As a freelance writer, I sometimes find it necessary to conduct research on topics that I have no personal interest in. Recently, I was called upon to learn about the black market surrounding bear gall bladders. While I do practice a type of “heal thyself” medicine, I have no interest in Eastern medicine or using products made from protected animals. I couldn’t help but wonder what type of advertising I might see in the coming weeks….
There are topics I would love to write about because I am genuinely interested in finding ways to stop them. However, my concern with the security of my information keeps me from researching hot topics that are crimes in most of the world, such as pedophilia or child pornography. I don’t want to see advertising that might come as a result of researching something I have no interest in participating in.
I encourage the Internet industry to regulate itself. However, if the FTC determines they have no intention of doing so, we have no choice but to establish yet another government oversight program.