Privacy advocates are expected to propose the creation of a do-not-track list, a sort of internet version of the Do Not Call Registry, at a news conference tomorrow.
In addition to the list, the proposal calls for a requirement that advertisers, as part of their online ads, instantaneously disclose details of what they intend to track. According to a media alert announcing the news conference, the groups behind the proposal include the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others.
Sounds interesting, but the effort doesn't make a ton of sense. And it's not likely to create an uproar among consumers. Here's why:
No one cares about cookies. Why did the Do-Not-Call list work? People were being called relentlessly during dinner. When is the last time a cookie did that to you? Meanwhile, cookies--little nuggets that are stored in your browser--can be helpful when you don't have to repeatedly see a huge ad before visiting a site or enter your password over and over at sites like WSJ.com.
Cookies are anonymous. Sure, you leave a clickprint, but cookies aren't connected to addresses, Social Security numbers and other key data. If you want to go on a privacy crusade there are other places to start.
Behavioral targeting won't kill you. So what if Yahoo or Google gets me a more relevant ad because they happen to know I checked out a Honda dealership in my area to buy a new Pilot? A more relevant ad is a less annoying one.
Is there a risk to behavioral targeting? Sure. But current ad standards don't allow cookies and personal information to be connected. Why start a new list--which will be thwarted anyway?