The Hurdles of “Do Not Track”

This week saw announcements from both  Mozilla and Google about browser mechanisms related to online behavioral targeting. Mozilla ...
The Hurdles of “Do Not Track”
Written by Chris Crum
  • This week saw announcements from both  Mozilla and Google about browser mechanisms related to online behavioral targeting. Mozilla announced the ‘do not track’ mechanism and Google announced a "Keep My Opt-Outs" Chrome Extension.

    We had a conversation with Doug Wolfgram, CEO of IntelliProtect, makers of another behavioral targeting blocker.  Wolfgram offered to share some thoughts about the announcements from Mozilla and Google.

    "Mozilla’s ‘do not track’ tool is a great step forward in online privacy," he tells us. "The new tool provides consumers with an idea of how online behavioral advertising works, and also provides them with a tool to start protecting themselves online. However, the new tool is browser specific and won’t help consumers not utilizing the Firefox browser and also requires the consumer to do much of the leg-work."

    Firefox Do Not Track Mechanism explained

    "Google’s Keep My Opt-outs strengths and weaknesses are very similar to those of Mozilla’s new tool," he adds. "Generally, it is up to the users to install, update and maintain browser extensions – something most users can’t and won’t do."

    I’m not so sure that most users "can’t" install a Chrome extension, and Google says users’ opt-outs will be automatically added to the extension, though they will be asked to allow Chrome to update it. But anyway…

    "Many behavioral targeting companies are based outside the US – making legislation ineffective," says Wolfgram. "Right now, those within the US must voluntarily comply. Global ‘do not track’ buttons are too powerful and comprehensive. Consumers want control, but it has to be easy to use."

    "Government regulation will be difficult to implement and enforce and market pressure is the best way to get compliance," he adds. "Industry groups that celebrate the ‘good’ vendors and expose the ‘bad’ vendors are most effective. Publishers are being left out of the discussion. For example, if the New York Times knew that a ‘bad’ vendor was publishing on their pages, they would drop them – with ‘bad’ vendors being those who will not support opt out technology."

    Advertisers are in store for "a complicated life," he says. "Seriously. This is a hot topic and there are many different proposals on the table. Current technology for opting out DOES work and advertisers should strive to support it for now. They must also have agile development environments so that they may easily adapt to any new regulations that come along."

    Mozilla says its working to get the header used by its add-on adopted as an industry standard. Google is open sourcing its extension, and is working to make it available for other browsers. Wolfgram maintains that his product is easier for consumers.

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