Running Off the Rails
Mon, June 10, 2013
NEW YORK TIMES: After nearly two years of negotiating and little progress, the international group trying to agree on a Do Not Track standard is convening its final official face-to-face meeting next week in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Although many people may not know that advertisers and other third parties operating on Web sites install cookies, which are small bits of code that track users’ browsing history, a small subset of consumers have already activated the Do Not Track mechanisms on their devices. These don’t-track-me browser settings send out signals telling third parties that a user does not want to have his or her online activities tracked.
As of March, for instance, 11.4 percent of the estimated 450 million people worldwide who use the Firefox desktop browser had activated the Do Not Track setting, according to a new report Friday from Mozilla.
Advertisers say they need to collect tracking data in order to show relevant ads to consumers. Without behavior-based ads to support free content and services, they argue, certain sites would have to shut down or start charging for access. Privacy advocates, for their part, argue that consumers have a right to choose not to be tracked by companies they don’t do business with. If the price consumers have to pay is more generic ads that are not tailored to them, they say, so be it.