Do Not Track List Won't Make Advertisers Happy

from the resistance-is-futile dept

Just as Facebook is looking to launch its own behavioral advertising network, AOL and some privacy groups are pitching the idea of a "Do Not Track" list that would effectively let people opt-out of behavioral advertising tracking. It's a challenging issue to deal with. Advertisers, obviously, want more data and information about who is viewing their ads, as well as having the ability to better target those ads. At the same time, the theory is that people are much more receptive to highly targeted, relevant ads. The problem, though, is that many internet surfers have no idea how much information they're handing over and how it's being used (and many would argue that the more relevant ads aren't actually appearing). If they knew how much data was being collected, however, many would probably be quite upset. The purpose of the Do Not Track list would be to give them back some control. Advertisers, of course, won't like this idea at all, as they often feel it's their divine right to have as much information as possible. They'll also complain that without this data, advertisements will actually be less relevant and less useful -- which might actually be true. In the end, though, it seems like while a "Do Not Track" may get lots of publicity, but how many people will actually sign up? Certainly I'd expect techies who are more concerned about this kind of thing to sign up -- but the average consumer? Unlike the "Do Not Call" list, most people don't even realize that they're being tracked, and so are much less likely to have the incentive to opt out of being tracked.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  

    Hit the Target

    I agree that the average consumer has no idea what is going on as far as advertisers tracking them.

    If the advertisers are not careful, they will wind up in Washington defending why their system is helpful for the consumer. The "do not track" registry could well become the next privacy hot topic, regardless that the consumers are oblivious to the whole situation.

     

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  2.  
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    matt, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 3:58am

    the real truth of the matter

    the real truth of the matter, is that nobody wants any ads. Relevant or not. I do not want to unwilling be part of someone else's revenue service unless I choose to be.

     

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  3.  
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    * Miss Universe, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 4:01am

    Just Don't Use The Damn Web

    This effort will not get very far. Since a user is voluntarily entering someone else's property, they are allowing their IPs to be tracked.

    No one can tell you what code to NOT put on your private site - as long as it is not malware or trojans or viruses.

    In other words, your site is your property, you can add whatever code you wish to ad.

    People are entering it out of their own self interest - either for news, resources, knowledge or entertainment.

    In an extreme case - if this does get to court - the worst possible scenario would be to have site owners put an 'IP being tracked for advertising relevancy with cookies' disclaimer on some high profile sites that share info.

    But the truly concerned, already know now to delete cookies or use proxies if they MUST visit.

     

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  4.  
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    Evil Mike, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 4:06am

    Won't happen.

    You'd need a server system equivalent to the great firewall of china to begin making a dent in this "problem."

    Simply in pure numbers of participants and logistics; the cost of putting such in place would be enormous, and it would merely be another waste of our tax dollars for little or no effective return on said investment.

    In addition to the above, how can one realistically target/not target specific persons when your only real identifier is ip address--which for most of us varies greatly from one logon to the next.

    If you don't want ads, download firefox and learn to concisely use the adblock extension.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 4:10am

    targeted advertising is good business however that said it is also a violation of privacy, divisive and emotionally charged with gender, age race and religious profiling. In practice it is unconstitutional and a egregious violation of decency.

     

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  6.  
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    The Swiss Cheese Monster, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 4:20am

    Re: the real truth of the matter

    The real truth is, some people don't mind ads.... Somebody has to pay for all this stuff that I consume for free.

    When they start covering things up, I don't like them. But I don't mind most advertising systems.

     

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  7.  
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    dennis, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 4:50am

    do not track list

    Like most consumers we are so inundated with advertising that i ignore 99.9% of what advertisements make it through my firewall/spam blocker. Even in the newspaper i ignore the ads. So track away it really means nothing in the end if it's ignored.

     

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  8.  
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    Mack, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 4:59am

    Re: won't happen

    You'd need a server system equivalent to the great firewall of china to begin making a dent in this

    Nope, just an agreement by advertisers to honor a "do not track" cookie that you can get from a known reliable site (say, donottrack.gov).

    The real difference between this and 'do not call' is geography. No one outside the US (or outside countries with a treaty covering this) is going to pay any attention to a law, a list, or a cookie.

    And soon enough, that would be... everybody. Loophole!

     

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  9.  
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    Danny, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 5:40am

    A fine balance

    Some people don't mind if advertisers know what chapter of the book they are currently reading.

    Some people would prefer advertisers only know what types of books they are into.

    And there are still others that don't want advertisers to even know they read books.



    The fact that people are divided that way (and possibly more) is only going to lead to legal war between advertisers, developers of ad blocking software, and lawyers with internet users having no say in the matter but having to shoulder the burden of the outcomes. Sorry for the rant but my point is that as long there are different perceptions of when data collection gets too close for comfort any "Do Not _____" list will be almost useless.

    And like comment #8 says about loopholes is a valid point to note. I'll bet there are advertisers out there already brainstorming about possible loopholes.

     

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  10.  
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    Rut, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 6:44am

    What of grocery store "savings cards"?

    I wonder if this rule would apply to Albertson's, Safeway, Smith's--insert your local grocery store here--that invite its customers to sign up for "loyalty cards", and then track items purchased with said card.

    I'm not sure how this data is currently used, but somebody out there knows a lot about our spending habits, even when the Internet is not the shopping platform.

     

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  11.  
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    Alfred E. Neuman, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 6:48am

    But ...

    by blocking ads you are Stealing the intarweb.

     

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  12.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Nov 1st, 2007 @ 6:56am

    Missing the bigger picture

    Personally, I don't have much of a problem with being "tracked" since it is invisible to me.

    However, in this era of identity theft, security breaches of customer information, and the need for greater security - there are many advertising/marketing practices that should be severely curtailed.

    1. The buying/selling/renting/whatever of customer information should be prohibited.
    2. No automatic opt-in. Opt-in must be a voluntary action.

    What has been ludicrous, companies claim to value your privacy and claim that they will handle your information in a secure manner, yet they will fight any regulation that proposes to protect the consumer. I guess they figure that despite any financial damage, they can still make more money by treating us as revenue units.

     

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  13.  
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    sean, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 7:00am

    Targeted Ads?

    What the heck's that? I've never seen one - I get a load of ads for all sorts of junk that I don't want.
    Use FF and NoScript and watch all those trackers servers scream!

     

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  14.  
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    TriZz, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 7:13am

    Re: Targeted Ads?

    "What the heck's that?"

    Targeted ads are ads that are custom to you and what you're into. You're likely to click a link (ad) that has your favorite band in it, rather than a band you don't like.

    Gmail has been doing this for awhile, whenever I get an email, the ad at the top of the page is usually something based on the content of the email. Example: A friend and I were discussing the new BlackBerry with the wifi capabilities, and I had an ad on the page for "the newest blackberries".

    ...sorta like that, except this new method is much more in depth. They track your movements throughout the web and target ads based on sites you frequent.

     

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  15.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Nov 1st, 2007 @ 7:21am

    Targeted Adds

    What??? No one remembers our hero walking through a lobby in "Minority Report" where all the TVs are screaming ads at him.

    On several webpages, I have noted that Amazon.com has been able to insert ads targeted to me specifically, even though I am not "technically" logged-in.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    DNAtsol, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 7:24am

    Maybe it's just me....

    Odd how people seem so freaked out by this idea. Frankly, it doesn't bother me in the slightest.

    Hmm maybe because I use firefox and the adblock plus addon. "They" can collect all the data they want. I'll never be affected. I never see any ads.

    When my wife and I are both on facebook I'm always surprised to see ads on her pages. We can be at the same site simultaneously and my page is clean, easily readable, no flashing annoying ads, scrolling banners, just the info I want to access.

    I wonder if this is a privacy issue or a browser use issue (cough, cough) :)

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    DNAtsol, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 7:30am

    Re: do not track list

    As a psychologist, I can say with some certainly that while you think you are ignoring the ads some content and/or "brand awareness" does get through.

    Have you noticed lately that ads on TV spent a lot more time with the brand icon on screen so you can see it even when you FF on your Tivo/DVR???

    Advertisers are clever, after all, many of them have psychology backgrounds ;)

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    DNAtsol, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 7:35am

    Re: But ...

    When you head to a site with ads just remember you are a product not a consumer. The site is selling YOU to advertisers.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased), Nov 1st, 2007 @ 7:35am

    Do not track

    Isn't that what Ad Block Plus does? I guess they are still tracking me but I never see their ads anyway. Thanks Firefox!

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    I ressuscitated Elvis, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 8:16am

    ADBLOCK, NOSCRIPT, FFpopup killer

    I have all installed, I don't see annoying ads anymore,
    but I am sure they track me everywhere i go, they may follow me to the bathroom if they want;
    what's the matter,use more pseudo, have dynamic IP addresses, that's all

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Just Some Guy, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 9:18am

    Targeted Ads

    Do a search on google and look at the "Sponsored Results" listed to the right of your search results. It auto-fills a list of links related to your search terms. Ad blocking software and popup blockers will do nothing to stop these. This information is being returned on your main page.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Nismoto, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 11:28am

    Re: Re: Targeted Ads?

    Sarcasm: need not reply.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Nismoto, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 11:35am

    Re: Maybe it's just me....

    See the ads or not, the information is still being collected. It definitely isn't a browser use issue.

    Nice plug though...

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 11:54am

    Re: Targeted Ads

    "Ad blocking software and popup blockers will do nothing to stop these."

    Not true, you can use element filtering with NoScript to block literally ANY web content you like. Here's an example:

    This is a search for the Nokia 6300 without blocking:

    http://img223.imageshack.us/img223/7279/notblockediq2.jpg

    This is the same search with blocking enabled:

    http://img255.imageshack.us/img255/6898/noscriptblockedae6.jpg

    Whilst I may be tracked, it really is useless as LITERALLY no ads get through my setup.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re: Targeted Ads

    That should read AdBlock element filtering.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    DNAtsol, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Re: Maybe it's just me....

    I think I acknowledged that in my post. My point is that it has 0 effect. They can target me all they like. I'll never see what they want me to see.

    As an added bonus I'm essentially providing bogus data that will mess with their marketing models since the data collection will indicate ad shown and no response. But the lack of response is because I'm not even aware of it's existence.

    A double win from my perspective :).

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    DNAtsol, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Maybe it's just me.... further thought

    If a company pays for website ads using $/impression model and I go to the site, do not see the add but worthless data is still collected is this counted and have to be paid?? If so, TRIPLE win for me !!

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Nismoto, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 3:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Maybe it's just me.... further tho

    The subject of the article is a "Do Not Track" list not a "Don't Display Ad" list. Seeing or not seeing the ad and the relevancy of the collected data are not the issue here.

    It's definitely a privacy debate/issue, not a browser one.

    But your point was made: you are a cool Firefox user with Add-ons :)

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Cward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 3:40pm

    "No one can tell you what code to NOT put on your private site - as long as it is not malware or trojans or viruses."

    Perhaps then the argument should be about the methods, and legality thereof, to gather such information. Is this code legal? Is the user informed of it? Did they consent to this code being run? Is anyone really concerned with this not running applications similar to the one below?

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1559

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Re: do not track list

    Have you noticed lately that a large deal of people have stopped watching tv?

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 4:20pm

    Re: Just Don't Use The Damn Web

    "No one can tell you what code to NOT put on your private site"

    The problem is that they are putting code on YOUR and MY COMPUTERS - not that it's on the web page.

    Nobody has the right to put stuff on my hard drive - including Microsoft - without asking my permission. Unfortunately we act like sheep and allow it.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    DNAtsol, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 5:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Maybe it's just me.... further

    Thanks for the FF compliment. Being superior does have it's advantages :).

    However, I'll try to make the point I've been making about tracking one more time. Tracking is useless. It has no value. It does not track to track someone's tracks. Someone somewhere is making a lot of $ selling snakeoil to advertisers.

    This is fine by me. Someone gets some numbers that are meaningless and I go about my daily life completely unaffected. I wonder if the square root of -1 means I like cotton candy?

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 9:54pm

    Re: Just Don't Use The Damn Web

    No one can tell you what code to NOT put on your private site - as long as it is not malware or trojans or viruses.
    Oh yeah? Try putting some code up that generates kiddy porn or displays death threats against the president. Then let us know how that worked out for you. Oh wait, they probably won't let you post comments to blogs from prison.

    In other words, your site is your property, you can add whatever code you wish to ad.
    You've got a lot to learn. There are all kinds of thing you can't do even on your own property. Having your own property isn't exactly like having your own country if that's what you're thinking. You are still subject to laws. If laws are passed that say you can't track people on your website, then doing so will be illegal. Whether you like it or not.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 9:58pm

    Re: Missing the bigger picture

    Personally, I don't have much of a problem with being "tracked" since it is invisible to me.

    OK.

    1. The buying/selling/renting/whatever of customer information should be prohibited.

    I hate to tell you this but "The buying/selling/renting/whatever of customer information" is a form of tracking. Make up your mind.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 10:01pm

    Re: Maybe it's just me....

    Odd how people seem so freaked out by this idea. Frankly, it doesn't bother me in the slightest.
    Why not?

    Hmm maybe because I use firefox and the adblock plus addon. "They" can collect all the data they want. I'll never be affected. I never see any ads.
    Ahh, I see. Because you only care about yourself.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 1st, 2007 @ 10:07pm

    Do Not Stalk

    I think they should call it a "Do Not Stalk List". The sheeple would probably be a little more supportive of it then.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Bah who needs one, Nov 2nd, 2007 @ 3:04pm

    I do hope you all realize that the same blocking tools that let you block ads can be used to block tracking bugs. I often go to a site and systematically block every single element it loads from elsewhere. I go to www.foo.com and it's loading banners from doubleclick.com, a 1x1 gif from some stat tracking site, a script from google-analytics, and so forth. Block everything not from foo.com and you suddenly have a much cleaner and more readable page, and none of those ad networks can even track you in the future at that or other sites. The foo.com server admin would now have to hand over his server logs to someone who wanted to track me.

    Of course, blocking images from sites like photobucket and imageshack is dumb, as blogs and forum postings tend to use these for image hosting; legitimate, visible content I won't block. Ads and especially tracking gifs/scripts can go though.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    You know little, Nov 2nd, 2007 @ 11:56pm

    Re:

    I do hope you realize that the blocking tools you suggest won't keep foo.com itself from tracking you.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 3rd, 2007 @ 5:23am

    Re: Re:

    I do hope you realize that the blocking tools you suggest won't keep foo.com itself from tracking you.

    Or his ISP or his employer (if at work) or anyone else with access to his network traffic. He really doesn't know as much as he thinks he does.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Mick, Nov 9th, 2007 @ 10:34am

    I think a great way to demonstrate to the average user is to let them browse with Firefox and NoScript enabled. When you can selectively see what sites are attempting to pull data from your submissions it might make people see things differently.

    Even this page for example has 5 different domains in action. Not all are tracking data obviously, some would be inputting, but the effect remains the same.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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