Millions of websites track user activity. Some companies are only concerned with activity on their sites; others have implemented Internet-wide behavioral tracking systems. Collected information is analyzed, and corporations use the data to serve up highly relevant advertisements based on personal browsing history. It’s called behavioral targeting, and it’s big business.
Some privacy advocates, however, feel that behavioral targeting has gone too far and want legislators to pass a “do not track” law similar to the successful “do not call” law.
Both sides of the aisle are in favor of a universal bill but have different opinions on how to get it done. Fortunately, Sens. John Kerry and John McCain worked out a compromise and are co-sponsoring a bipartisan Online Bill of Rights.
Data Collection Is A Concern For Privacy Advocates
Cookies can track and collect data on users. Some firms have in-house departments to analyze the data; others use dedicated, third-party analytics companies. Since many information miners can cull personally identifiable data, their activities are a cause of concern for both the government and privacy advocates.
Do Not Track: The Proponents’ Argument
Do-not-track proponents want legislation, similar to the do-not-call measure, which allows individuals to opt-out of behavioral tracking programs. They argue that privacy is a fundamental American right and believe that inaction could lead to serious 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 comply with FTC rules that apply to certain markets like finance, health, e-commerce and children’s websites.