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.

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Companies: aol

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Comments on “Do Not Track List Won't Make Advertisers Happy”

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40 Comments
Max Powers at http://ConsumerFight.com (user link) says:

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.

* Miss Universe (user link) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Evil Mike (profile) says:

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.

Mack says:

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!

DNAtsol (user link) says:

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 😉

Danny says:

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.

Rut says:

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.

Steve R. (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

TriZz says:

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.

DNAtsol (user link) says:

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) 🙂

DNAtsol (user link) says:

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 :).

Nismoto says:

Re: Re: Re:2 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 🙂

DNAtsol (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Cward says:

“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

Bah who needs one (user link) says:

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 http://www.foo.com and it’s loading banners from doubleclick.com, a 1×1 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.

Mick says:

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.

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