Do-not-track list: Has a Web cookie ever interrupted your dinner?

Do-not-track list: Has a Web cookie ever interrupted your dinner?

Summary: Privacy advocacy groups are expected to propose a Do-Not-Track list that would do look to thwart the use of Web cookies--and behavioral ad targeting.Ad Age reports (Techmeme):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.

TOPICS: Browser

Privacy advocacy groups are expected to propose a Do-Not-Track list that would do look to thwart the use of Web cookies--and behavioral ad targeting.

Ad Age reports (Techmeme):

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

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?

Topic: Browser

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  • Actually, they CAN get your address...

    Ever buy anything on the internet? Ask for something to be sent to you? Put in your phone number? Age? Those are all opportunities for data sharing with ad networks which can use the info to target advertising to you.

    Look at CNET/ZDNET's own account system and what data YOU collect... Birthday? Sex? Detailed info on your company? Your own privacy policy says that you share some of this info with third parties (although it also says that you don't share it with ad companies.) That doesn't mean that OTHER sites also have the same exceptions... That data is of GREAT interest to ad companies. I'm sure that agreements are made for better ad rates for sites that don't have quite as strong of a privacy policy as CNET.

    I'm sorry - I've been in this business (large ad-supported web sites) long enough to know not to trust ad companies - hence I block all cookies / javascript from them.
    • Actually, they DO.

      It is trivial to connect the dots of your web browsing, your online purchases, and your online memberships. The data is mined intensively... and not always by marketing departments. Sadly, I'm sure that the overseas ID theft rings are having a field day too.

      Larry, do you really think they don't have enough to do some damage? Then think again; think about what you have had had to enter at a variety of sites throughout your internet experience. As the prior poster said, consider at all the unnecessary information ZDNet demands for it's membership.

      Unfortunately, I agree with your take on the no-track registry. It won't work. There are only 2 real ways to thwart this intrusive behavior and keep ourselves safe:

      1) Whenever a website demands information not crucial to the relationship (ie: none of their business) lie. Tell them that you're a 12 pound 3'2" tall 600 year old martian who enjoys gospell singing and rugby. If we fill their databases with meaningless fictional crud, then they won't be able to use the data to attack us.

      2) Set your browser so that you don't accept third-party cookies, delete all cookies at the end of every session, and disable the twin attack vectors of Active-X and JavaScript.

      Are these perfect defenses? No... but they go a long way beyond what some meaningless list maintained by a clueless bureaucracy and ignored by boiler-room sales-weasels looking to steal your granny's money.

      Just my $0.02 USD as a cynical old man...

      • I've always lied on online forms

        Enough bad data in a database and the database is useless.
        • What? Voska *isn't* your real name? I'm shocked ;-)

          Yeah, like my last name is really Doe...
          Have a great day!

          Jon (yeah, that part is real)
  • No need for list, use AdBlockPlus

    I use AdBlockPlus to nuke most of the online tracking services and ad services. Once you start, you'll be amazed. It's scary how much tracking there is. And, this is a significant issue because if you can aggregate tracking data (urchin.js on every page) with purchase data (Google Checkout) you're totally owned by Google. I refuse to use Google checkout. At least individual stores keep their customer info as proprietary data and won't aggregate it with others. Anyone who is concerned about privacy will figure out how to use AdBlockPlus very quickly.
    • You're not paranoid enough!

      When I want to be relatively anonymous, I use Adblock Plus, Privoxy, and tor.
  • It's not just cookies...

    Cookies are nasty because they can track web visit patterns. When I took over a business and its web site and emails, I was deluged in porn from the previous owner's web practices -- no, not cookies, but tracked to an email account.

    Ebay remembers everything I've searched for or looked at on ebay since I created my account there. Whenever I log in, I am bombarded with what they think must be interesting to me based on past searches and purchases. There doesn't seem to be any way to reset this. Once I've purchased the one CD I was looking for, I don't care if the same group or same genre produces thousands more; my purchase was one time. If I want more, I'll ask.

    I don't use my frequent shopper card at the grocery because since I bought diapers for a friend, I keep getting coupons for baby stuff, for which I no longer have any need.

    There was a time, before massive computer complexes, that I would have been happy to provide all kinds of stupid details with a sale, knowing that the more information they got, the less useful it would be, simply because it was all tracked by hand. But with personal data being bought and sold on some market that isn't very visible to us end user kind of consumers, I know that computers thrive and sifting and sorting this sort of trivia, and are all to happy to provide their masters with summary data about demographics, local preferences, or even individuals, if asked.

    A do-not-track list? Turn off cookies in your browser. You can always make exceptions for ZDNet, WSJ, but not for!
    • ...including cc nos, phone nos

      It's really not to do with cookies, although a cookie could in principle store my Visa and phone no. as easily as any other info that I may enter on the site. It's the privacy policy of the site. I have received numerous telephone solicitation calls from an organization "associated with" a site I made a purchase from. Not only did they know my address, my phone no., (well, duh, maybe I should have spoofed it filling in the form -- how often does a web vendor need to call you as opposed to email), they knew my Visa No. as well.
  • I don't pay enough attention to ads to know if they are relevant

    That's just me. My eyes go right to the content I'm looking for an I rarely if ever notice and add. In fact right now I couldn't tell you what ads are on ZDNET. So I'll scroll up to take a look and Oh it's SQLSERVER 2005. Is that the most common ad? I have no clue.
  • RE: Do-not-track list: Has a Web cookie ever interrupted your dinner?

    Why are these companies allowed to "steal" your property? (taking up YOUR hard drive space). Would they be allowed to erect a billboard on your property without your approval?
    • They use bandwidth *you* are paying for too...

      Which is basically 'theft of services'. I say we establish a charge-back mechanism. It doesn't even have to be that much, just $0.01 (one cent) per incident of using bandwidth stolen from each user (you know, the ones who are actually *paying* for that bandwidth) they harass.

      That could result in some sales and marketing group receiving a bill of several billion dollars a day. Hit them in their wallets; it's all they care about, so it's the only way to get them to stop.

      Just my $0.02 USD, based on *still* being a cynical old man

  • RE: Do-not-track list: Has a Web cookie ever interrupted your dinner?

    Urrmm... what you are discussing here is not behavioural targetting, it is user profiling, there is a key difference. Deifne "relevant ad"? I discuss Ferrari with my girlfriend on the phone, you are listening in for the prime purpose of selling me something?! You then assume because I mentioned Ferrari that I am interested in finding out more or in position to buy?! How ridiculous...

    If you would like to understand the reality behind the facade, please read my comments on my blog:
  • Ask and you shall receive...

    Guys there are valid reasons for "opting in" - did you get an alert to this story via email? Did you sign up to it? So you WANT to be kept up-to-date with information...

    So it is your choice...

    Nothing wrong with me wanting to have personalised pages and kept-up-to-date with things I am interested in, but that is huge difference from "assumption" because I have visited your site I WANT to be targeted.

    Simple rule of them - ask them!
    • I agree, and support 'opt-in', but ...

      that's *not* how the industry does it, and it's to bad too; because a system built on trust and agreement between parties is a communications network that helps everyone.

      One based on predatory effects, such as what we are devolving into now, is doomed to implode as people refuse to take part and become disconnected in order to protect themselves from unwanted harassment.

      You're right, opt-in can have great benefits, now if only we could get the sales-weasels to agree to use it.

  • RE: Do-not-track list: Has a Web cookie ever interrupted your dinner?

    If you don't want cookies go into your browser settings and change the setting to do not accept cookies. You can put in exceptions for the ones you do want to allow. Cookies are not a big deal otherwise.