Millions of websites track the comings and goings of every single user; it’s called behavioral targeting and its big business. Some companies are only concerned with activity on their own websites, while others have implemented complex behavioral tracking systems to follow and record your every Internet move. Collected information is analyzed and corporations use the data to serve up highly relevant advertisements based on personal browsing history.
But privacy advocates feel behavioral targeting has gone too far and want legislators to pass a federally enforceable “do not track” law similar to the successful “do not call” law.
Both sides of the aisle are in favor of a universal bill; though Democrats and Republicans have differing opinions on how to do it. Despite ideological differences, however, Sens. John Kerry and John McCain worked out a compromise and are co-sponsoring a bipartisan “online bill of rights”.
How Online Tracking Works and Why Folks are Concerned
Cookies and similar methods are used to follow individuals around the Web. Some operations only keep track of what individuals do on their site, while others have far-reaching systems to track everything users do online.
Data collected is sent to a party that can analyze the information. Some firms have in-house departments and others use 3rd party data firms. Many of These information miners are able to cull personally identifiable data. this fact is the primary cause of concern for both the government and privacy advocates.
Do Not Track: The Proponents’ Argument
Advocating for a bill similar to the do-not-call law, do-not-track proponents want legislation that allows individuals to opt-out of behavioral Internet tracking programs. They argue privacy is a fundamental American right and caution that if we don’t pass comprehensive online privacy legislation soon, the nation could wind up facing serious online privacy invasion problems in the future.
Do Not Track: The Opponents’ Argument
Opponents to do not track laws are working hard to make sure a universal law isn’t passed. The cost of implementing necessary controls is their main cause of concern. Unnecessary barriers to entry, they claim, will be created if a universal privacy law is passed.
Basically, anti-privacy law advocates think such a law is a threat to capitalism.
Do Not Track: Privacy by Design
Another popular voice in the ongoing online privacy debate is the “privacy by design” argument. Popular browsers such as Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer are in various stages of incorporating do-not-track functionality into their products, thereby giving users the option to be tracked or not. Many feel “privacy by design” is the best way to go since it puts the choice squarely in the hands of users, thus eliminating the need for yet another federal law.
IT professionals, however, warn that do-not-track browser technology is easily bi-passable and probably wouldn’t do much in the way of actually keeping data private.
Sens. McCain and Kerry Teaming up for Privacy
Sen. McCain is, once again, eschewing the “small government or bust” faction of the Republican Party by co-sponsoring an online privacy bill of rights with Massachusetts Democrat, Sen. John Kerry.
The bipartisan bill calls for several universal online privacy standards. In addition, it provides provisions for companies willing to go through an intense and costly security certification program in order to be exempt from the law.
Contact An Online Privacy Law Attorney
Do not track is not the only Internet privacy legal issue. If you run an online business, it’s important to be in compliance with current online privacy laws that apply to certain markets like finance, health, e-commerce and children’s websites.