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Why “Do Not Track” is Dumb

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Reuters reports that a group of privacy and consumer organizations have asked the FTC to create a "do not track" list for internet users who want to opt-out of any ad-behavior tracking.


Such a list would function much like the FTC’s "do not call" registry that consumers can join to prevent telemarketing phone calls, according to the groups, which include the Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Consumer Federation of America.

Oh it would, would it? I don’t think so. While it’s easy to remove you telephone number from a telemarketer’s list–your number is always the same–how can that work with the internet? Let’s look at the challenges, shall we?

  1. What exactly would you opt-out? Your IP address? The one you share with thousands of other dial-up users or the one that gets renewed every time your DSL/cable connection drops?
  2. How about cookies? You know, the cookies that are specific to your browser. Oh wait, what happens when you switch browsers? What about if you want to be tracked, but your wife doesn’t? And what about if you you use more than one computer? Perhaps we need a cookie to track who doesn’t want cookies? ;-)
  3. Does this mean the search engines will have to change their privacy policies? After all, if I opt out, then Google shouldn’t keep any data on me, right? Yeah, Google’s gonna love that idea.

Those are just a few off the top of my head. While I think the idea is noble, the implementation will likely be a disaster.

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