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    Opinion at AdAge: Why One FTC Commissioner Thinks Do Not Track Is Off-Track

    Federal Trade Commission Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch writes about Do Not Track proposals in an opinion column for AdAge:

    The media loves “do not track.” In recent days, there has been a flood of news articles reporting that the Federal Trade Commission does, too. Some of those articles have even implied that the commission has endorsed particular do-not-track mechanisms. […] this implication is wrong.

    The concept of do not track has not been endorsed by the commission or, in my judgment, even properly vetted yet. In actuality, in a preliminary staff report issued in December 2010, the FTC proposed a new privacy framework and suggested the implementation of do not track. The commission voted to issue the preliminary FTC staff report for the sole purpose of soliciting public comment on these proposals. Indeed, far from endorsing the staff’s do-not-track proposal, one other commissioner has called it premature.

    I also have serious questions about the various do-not-track proposals. In my concurring statement to the preliminary staff report, I said I would support a do-not-track mechanism if it were “technically feasible.” By that I meant that it needed to have a number of attributes that had not yet been demonstrated. That is still true, in my judgment. […]

    Consumers may also lose the free content they have taken for granted. Not only could consumers potentially lose access to free content on specific websites, I fear that the aggregate effect of widespread adoption by consumers of overly broad do-not-track mechanisms might be the reduction of free content, free applications and innovation across the entire internet economy. […]

    I also wonder whether an overly broad do-not-track mechanism would deprive consumers of some beneficial tracking, such as tracking performed to prevent fraud, to avoid being served the same advertising, or to conduct analytics that foster innovation. Concerns have been raised that do-not-track mechanisms also may have the unintended consequence of blocking tailored content, in addition to advertising. […]

    These are some of the questions for which I will be seeking definitive answers before I can support any particular do-not-track proposal. But again, I am speaking only for myself because, as I emphasize, the commission has not yet voted to endorse any such proposal.

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