However, standards and legislation created to govern the use of technology to gather user data are unnecessary, Searls says. That's because alternative approaches to e-commerce can help businesses use data more effectively without having to monitor their activity and hoard their information.
"I don't think we need Do Not Track legislation," Searls says. "I think it's a bad idea at this stage, because we don't have the technical solutions to the problem, the problem basically being that we got stuck at client/server in 1995 with the first Web servers and especially with the invention of the cookie, and we have this normative system in which almost all the power resides on the server side and not on the client side."
This cookie-based economic approach to advertising is hampering the communicative power of the Internet, Searls says. The guessing game that many companies are playing with big data -- analyzing where customers have been and trying to identify what they might want next -- is less effective than a relationship in which buyers provide their wants and needs voluntarily. Businesses really don't need to monitor Internet users' activity when, in a two-way world where anyone can connect with any company via social networks, all they really have to do is ask.
"If I actually was involved in your stupid game and I know you by name and you know me, and I knew who you were and we had a trusting relationship, I'd be able to give you better information," Searls says.
Implementing Do Not Track would perpetuate the vendor-first relationship that dictates business transactions over the Internet, Searls says. Instead of engaging in a battle against companies' data collection practices, the efforts of those in the e-commerce industry should be directed at establishing a new dynamic in which businesses do not track Web users simply because there are more lucrative ways of gathering accurate and useful information.
"The case that I'm making there is just that if we were involved as capable and independent human beings we'd be able to form genuine relationships with entities that are genuinely interested in helping us out, rather than scoring a few micro-cents on the placement of one ad in a system in which they have lots and lots of opacity built in so they can deny the evils of following you around," Searls says.