Do Not Track – On or Off Track?
The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), a self-appointed overseer of Internet policy, has been debating the do not track debate for years. Should it be an opt-in where consumers cannot be tracked on the Internet without their prior express permission (as it is in Europe) or should it be an opt-out system where tracking is permitted until the consumer says stop (as it is in the United States and as supported by the marketing industry’s Digital Advertising Alliance)? The debate pits consumer advocates against marketers. At stake is Internet efficiency and competition on the Web. An opt-in regime will unquestionably raise the barriers to entry (the costs of efficiently competing on the Internet) and suppress small start-up opportunities. Not only will it suppress commercial competition, but it will also make it more difficult to reach target audiences for non-commercial messages, e.g., charitable or political solicitations. Is that what’s best for the Internet? It that really what consumers want? If you ask a consumer the question, “Do you want advertisers to capture your personal information without your permission and use it for their marketing purposes?” only a fool would answer “yes”. But if you ask consumers, “Do you want advertisers to capture your personal information without your permission so that you no longer get spam ads and solicitations you don’t want?”, the answer will be very different. It’s all in the question that is asked. Pundits don’t get that. They want to be paternalistic and substitute their views of censorship for what they mistakenly believe is best for the consumer. Consumers are going to get ads whether they like it or not. So the choice is whether they want ads that are annoying and have nothing to do with their interests or ones that have meaning to the consumer and create a more robust and competitive marketplace. Here’s the string of articles:
Well done, Law360!
We Expert Doug Wood