Is It Time for a ‘Do Not Track’ Mechanism?

Our newest hero,

“It is time for a ‘do not track’ mechanism,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the Federal Trade Commission may actually be the first politician to understand the opportunities, as well as the regulation needed with respect to privacy and how advertising will work in the free markets of the world.  Leibowitz in the NYTimes says, "Saying that online companies have failed to protect the privacy of Internet users, the Federal Trade Commission recommended a broad framework for commercial use of Web consumer data, including a simple and universal “do not track” mechanism that would essentially give consumers the type of control they gained over marketers with the national “do not call” registry."

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Oracle, Lustre and Open Source…Going, Going, Gone
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His biggest problem, "the sites and services that are connecting the dots between different times and places that a consumer is online and building a profile of what a consumer is doing."  Well that may be one of the fastest growing segments of the Internet as big ticket applications are being bought out with the hopes of owning the demographics which are the only fungible assets of the publishing industry any longer. 

The Times article questions how this will affect Google and other ad servers and no doubt they will be at the heart of the discussion.  But lots of companies are watching our online activity and who knows what they are doing with it, or what they can do with it.  A 79 page report has been issued with "suggestions" which we will continue to monitor to see where it leads.

However, Mike Zaneis, the senior vice president and general counsel of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, is already at odds screaming about how this will cut into their dollars.  He wants more time to self regulate, which is a little like getting the coyote to babysit the rabbit:  “If your goal is to have a red flashing icon that says, ‘Click here to opt out of targeting,’ and to incentivize people to opt out, then we don’t share that goal.”

The online picnic for consumer advertisers is coming to an end.  The competitive edge for winning the demographics war will go to the folks who bring value, get to know their audience and adhere to a strict diet of permission marketing.  These are not ideas without a solid foundation.  We here in the Business-to-Business world know exactly how important it is to get to know your audience and stay in touch with them with items they like, they value and when they say no more, we stop.  We don't sell their personal information and we respect them.  We know this is not the case in the consumer world of advertising.

Obama's Liebowitz seems focused but doesn't claim to be seeking legislation.  I think it's important to guide the court when this gets a hearing.  It's only a matter of time when personal information is stolen or sold and leads to serious criminal activity.  The market will provide much greater opportunities if we can assure the consumers that they are respected and we are all made to behave.


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