Is Do Not Track dead?

A year after the FTC urged the creation of the DNT standard, it my soon be dead in the water. Who's to blame? Take a wild guess.

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What’s interesting about this survey is how few people had ever heard of Do Not Track: Only 13 percent of those called. So much of the survey had to be conducted on a hypothetical basis.

Bottom line: Most normal humans don’t understand what DNT is all about. Partly that’s because the issues are ridiculously complex, and partly because both the ad industry and privacy advocates have done a poor job of explaining them. In fact, I think there’s a lot of deliberate disinformation being peddled about it on both sides.

The second bit of evidence that the adsters are not really taking DNT very seriously? Last week, Rachel Thomas, an executive with the Direct Marketing Association, has asked the geeks attempting to cobble together a DNT standard to make an exception for “marketing.” Thomas wrote:

Marketing as a permitted use would allow the use of the data to send relevant offers to consumers through specific devices they have used. The data could not be used for other purposes, such as eligibility for employment, insurance, etc. Thus, we move to a harm consideration. Ads and offers are just offers -- users/consumers can simply not respond to those offers - there is no associated harm.

In other words, Thomas wants advertisers to be able to continue to track customers who’ve explicitly asked to not be tracked.

Unclear on the concept much?

My take on this: The ad industry doesn’t want any form of government oversight, and so they are deliberately stalling the DNT process in the hopes that a new administration will be elected into the White House and effectively scuttle all of it.

But it’s clear that people do want choice and control over the data that gets collected about them, even if they don’t understand what it is or how it works. They certainly don’t want to be fed more BS by parties with a vested interest in collecting and selling that data for a profit.

What will happen if we don’t get a real, workable DNT standard? More people will take it upon themselves to install tools like Abine’s Do Not Track Plus and simply block all data collection. They’ll adopt more ad blockers. They’ll make a choice, all on their own, and it won’t be one the ad industry will like.

Yes, I know: That will lead to the Webapocalypse. The free Internet as we know and love it today will cease to exist; nothing but tumbleweeds will blow across Websites like this one. I’ve heard that all before. that argument is no more convincing now than it was a year ago.

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