Do Not Track: Do We Need It?

Privacy advocates state that there should be a “Do Not Track” system, that forbids the collection of certain information and allows a user to option out of any methods of  tracking. There are two sides to every argument with legitimate concerns that people with different world views prioritize to differing degrees. At first glance, one may approve for the need of FTC mandating internet. For some, it feels like a violation to be treated as a mere object of commerce others worry that data about their interests will be used to discriminate wrongly against them or to exclude them from information and opportunities they should enjoy. Those who argue we do not need the DNT system believe excess customization of the Web experience may structure society. There is a nice thought  that as a nation our, privacy rights would be restored, however we cannot forget how many loopholes, contracts, network service providers benefits will come about a DNT law. The ultimate question is  what is  privacy?” Everyone has their own take on “privacy,” all we can do is be smart about how and who we provide our information to, take responsibility and control, that’s the closest to freedom  and privacy we can get, without the need of a DNT system.

DNT is not needed in terms of businesses and advertising, Internet tracking has many advantages, including allowing businesses and advertisers to convey more convenient and relevant advertising, services and cost savings to Internet users, however if ad networks sold personal and contact info, it would undercut its advertising business and its own profitability, however they can still trade the information. Most websites such as Facebook, Yahoo, MSN and thousands of blogs, news sites, and comment boards use advertising to support what they do, using cookies to track one’s Internet usage. Google for example, spends millions and millions of dollars on free services like its search engine, Gmail, mapping tools, Google Groups and more where the ultimate result is  personalized advertising.

Marketers will pay more to reach you if you are likely to use their products  in  the business of online advertising the model code is to sell space to advertisers—giving them access to people based on their demographics and interests.

A working group of industry representatives, advertisers, online businesses and privacy advocates  known as The W3C Tracking Protection Working Group, have been working for two years to expand an agreed upon policy and procedure for the need of a DNT system, but have been unable to reach any conclusion. 2012  Eric Wheeler  “Do Not Track”  is Poised to Kill Online Growth, argues the rumors ran that the DNT would be in action starting in the year 2013 there were no specifics as to who and what this DNT system would represent and “poison.” Wheeler argues that it would be so effective,

That it should strike fear into the hearts of every company that does business online — particularly startups, but also the Googles and Facebooks of the world.

According to the article,

The FTC was likely to go beyond the boundaries of privacy and easily opt out of receiving any such market ads including ones from companies and ad networks. Any allied company would cease to collect anonymous user data or coerce browsers to prevent tracking by default, this statement may sound beneficial.

Wheeler says,

The practical implications of such regulations would be devastating — not just for advertisers and the online publishers who depend on their money, but for the technology industry and economy as a whole.

Wheeler implies that consumers themselves would end up suffering to a need for the DNT System. The gain of  “privacy”  would be at the cost of online subscription fees, less interesting and innovative online experiences, and less relevant advertising. The results to DNT would lead  to a confusing, overboard, opt-in mechanisms on every Website visited. As Wheeler states,

We are headed for what feels like an anti-Internet, not a privacy movement.

The article by Jim Harper,  ‘It’s a Modern Trade: Web Users Get as Much as They Get as Much as They Give’ starts with

Many people are concerned and dismayed—even shocked—when they learn that “their” data are fuel for the World Wide Web.

Harper  is not so much taken aback by the FTC wanting to mandate the need for DNT, but rather says that society should stop being such cry babies and learn to better control our information. Harper does not agree with tracking one’s information, but he doesn’t agree with FTC wanting to mandate the need for DNT either.

Rather than indulging the natural reaction to say “stop,” people should get smart and learn how to control personal information. Every visit to a website sends information out before it pulls information in. And the information Web surfers send out can be revealing.

All this brings back information from one of the readings done in class titled, “NSA Prism program taps into the user data of Apple, Google and others.” The NSA obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other U.S. internet giants, this access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism. Prism allows officials to collect material such as search history, content of emails, file transfers and live chats.

PRISM is an easier method of  extensive, in-depth surveillance of live communications and stored information.

Prism according to the law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, Americans whose communications include people outside the US and also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US to be  collected without warrants. The new tracking method  PRISM emphasizes a need for DNT, creating more fears into people of their information being tracked to the point where apparently it can be collected without the use of a warrant.

In the end, one is responsible for their privacy and the actions they take upon it. Whether one agrees or disagrees  with  the need of the FTC mandating a  DNT system is an individual decision. Excess customization of the Web experience may structure  society. For those who seek a need for DNT, there are services and behaviors that can be avoided to not be tracked within one’s own terms. Once can make the effort in taking responsibility and control of the information they choose to share and post. Such methods include paying for security devices for network and online services, using a PO box and other such behaviors that can limit  information from being gathered.  Resisting the need for the DNT System, allows for one to be independent, in control of their information, allowing individuals to retain their personal liberties. 




12 thoughts on “Do Not Track: Do We Need It?

  1. I agree that there should be a Do Not Track law. Like you said, there may be a lot of benefits or citizens feeling like they got their privacy back but there are a lot of things that go against it. Personally, I think it can be a convenience that ads on websites can be personalized to you. It’s convenient when it comes to shopping or searching for deals along with keeping you updated when your favorite bands are coming to town or the shoes you were looking for just went on sale.

  2. Interesting post! I agree that even if DNT laws are passed that there will be loopholes found in the system. As well, even if the laws are passed they can still be broken. I think that we do not necessarily need DNT laws because the people who collect the data through means of internet will find another way to gather and utilize information.

  3. Thorough article! I agree with the ideas expressed by Jim Harper. I don’t want to live in a nanny state where the government solves all of my problems for me. If one is honestly concerned about their privacy, they must be educated and informed. I don’t feel as if regulation will be able to cover every circumstance. Beyond that, it could potentially inhibit the course of business and services which many would find useful, those of which are only possible with Internet tracking.

  4. I like the points that you made and I agree with you. Passing a Do Not Track law is complicated and people will always try to find ways around it. If people are worried with the tracking that ensues on the internet, then they as individuals, need to make changes to their internet habits or system preferences.

  5. Good post! I agree with you with your points. There will always be people who try to find a loop hole out of laws and this would be no different with the Do Not Track law. I agree with Moevanu that the individuals are the ones who need to change their actions on the internet if they are worried about being tracked.

  6. I do not think a Do Not Track law would be an effective way to protect the privacy of american citizens. Like many other people have stated, I believe companies would find ways around the law. Also, I think tracking people for advertizing is both effective and convenient. If people are concerned about their privacy they need to educate themselves about the internet. It might be a good idea for people concerned about privacy to actually start reading privacy policies before agreeing to them. 🙂

  7. I think that there doesn’t need to be Do Not Track Laws. I think there will always be people who will find ways around it if they really want to. I don’t always like ads, but I do like when they are personalized to things that I like. I think it is smart for the business, and more convenient for me. I think that individual people need to regulate their own preferences on whether they can be tracked or not, and that people should just be more educated on how to stop websites from tracking them.

  8. I never thought about those consequences before… that initiating a “Do Not Track” law would result in expensive, inconvenient internet. Its an interesting point and you explained it well. As much as I would like that law to take place, I would have to say I’d rather have free, easily accessible internet and learn how to protect my privacy individually (which isn’t that difficult anyway.)

  9. Great blog post! I agree with the points you made and with everyone in saying that having a “Do Not Track” law would be ineffective. I think that sometimes personalized ads can be convenient, and sometimes they are annoying, but that is just part of using the internet. On another note, as quite a few people previously said, if these laws were passed there would always be a way to find a loop hole in the system.

  10. I think there should be a do not track law but company’s would find some shortcut around the law or place it in their terms of service. Even if they didn’t pass the do not track law there are things on the internet that we could do to prevent how much we are getting tracked.

  11. Hey, there’s an easy way for advertisers to target their advertising without collecting user data. Usually there’s a target demographic for a website userbase. For instance, the website “The Escapist” is an article based website predicated on videogame coverage. The common sense of marketing says that “Hey, advertise to videogamers here!” They don’t need to collect user data to make that observation. And Youtube videos, they usually get categorized anyways. Cook up the ads for the video categories themselves, not the users. There is absolutely no need to collect user information.

    Also, AdBlock, wonderful thing. Who needs to worry about ads when you never see them? Actually, slightly off topic, but still relevant, content producers have to worry about ads. The people who host websites and the people who make videos need the ads, but it doesn’t affect them whether or not your ad is targeted. They get the revenue all the same, unless you block the ad. The people who host the ads add a whole other dimension to this argument.

  12. You did a really good job on your blog post! It was definitely a good read. I do agree that the “Do Not Track” law can be easily moved around and companies could easily find a loophole.

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