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    Op-Ed at Nashua Telegraph: ‘Do Not Track’ tool needed for web users

    An opinion column at the Nashua Telegraph chimes in on the Do Not Track proposal that has been advocated by privacy activists for years and recently by the Federal Trade Commission in a privacy report (pdf).

    If the “Do Not Call” registry helped Americans avoid unwanted telemarketers, can a “Do Not Track” option protect their privacy online? The Federal Trade Commission thinks so, and in a Dec. 1 report on consumer privacy in the digital age called for new tools to control the collection of information about consumer’s Internet activity.

    In releasing its report, titled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change,” the FTC argues there is now widespread support for more transparency and choice surrounding the largely invisible practice of “behavior advertising,” in which marketers track a consumer’s Internet activity and then deliver ads targeted to those interests, or assumed interests.

    The most practical method would probably involve the placement of a persistent setting, similar to a cookie, on the consumer’s browser, signaling the consumer’s choices about being tracked and receiving targeted ads. […]

    Consumers need to understand what personal information is being collected, how it is collected and how they can control the data collection and distribution.

    Some may see a benefit in allowing the tracking to continue, while others will opt out. While the government need not mandate one option or the other, consumers should certainly have the choice. This technology already exists and should be made available through all the major web browsers as soon as possible. […]

    While behavior advertising, as it’s called, might not be that objectionable, the privacy concerns are significant. Most consumers would rather not have strangers monitoring the websites they visit. The “Do Not Track” tool is certainly not the final answer to privacy on the Internet, but it’s a good step in the right direction.

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