Here’s a story that keeps rearing its head and doesn’t want to seem to die. Remember this one? Folks were–and still are–tired of having their private information shared by advertisers and to advertisers, so the Government is doing something about it. It’s called Do Not Track. We posted a follow-up to it a few months later and the advertising companies were trying to persuade lawmakers that they’d stop sharing information, but it would be on the honor system. Yeah, exactly. It does raise the question of just how much BS a single internet user can swallow. Or is that the beginning of a joke? Either way, we have yet another update.
First, we’re still being targeted by a process known as “behavior targeting.” Facebook probably has one of the best ways to describe this. Ever look at those ads on the sides of your screen? The ones that have a tendency to change when you look something up or become a fan of something? I became a fan of a Sci-Fi page and I suddenly found myself inundated by ads for Star Trek and Babylon 5 merchandise. And my music tastes? They’re trying to send products my way for that, too. The difference–and I may be one of the few who does this–is to do nothing. I won’t click on them. I won’t give them the time of day. If I could make them go away, I would.
This sort of thing is what happens to folks while surfing the internet, too. Web-publisher clients have been known to regularly send out information up to (and certainly not limited to) 75 third party services when you land on their home page. And the ones who don’t use it for advertising purposes sell the information to publishers. That’s quite a bit of your information circulating out there. We don’t want it available and the companies collecting it do because… I’m sure I could come up with some caustic reason, but suffice to say that it involves money. Their reaction to the Do Not Track bill is to say that, in its current form, it’ll destroy the internet economy.
If we take their word for it, then all internet sales will be expected to stop. People will no longer buy anything, no products will have a chance to be sold and E-commerce will die a sad death due to a lack of advertising. <blank stare> Really?
A company called Disconnect is in the process of developing a series of buttons that will clearly demonstrate the tracking policies of a site. One of those buttons will also act as a Do Not Track button for the site, which will be present on sites that choose to use them. Cue the eye-roll here. The simpler solution is the one that they don’t want; treat Do Not Track like the Do Not Call list. Let NO site track you unless (and here’s what they REALLY won’t like) you opt in to let that site share information. And even then, you should be able to choose what information they share. That would be fair…for us, that is.
If you’d rather not wait for legislation to go through, you can always update your browser to Firefox 5. It not only allows you additional control over how your browsing is tracked, but it also allows you to opt out of the behavior tracking process when and where possible.
The world didn’t end after Do Not Call was introduced. In fact, my nights are much happier for it, though I still get a local cleaning company who leaves very lengthy messages on my answering machine trying to get me to use their services. I’ve turned them in twice. Hell hath no fury than someone forced to listen to that crap. The world won’t end with Do Not Track either. It might even generate some new jobs since companies may have to go back to doing things the old-fashioned way of gathering information.