Following tremendous growth in consumer privacy advocacy, the Obama administration has been actively seeking support for its privacy bill of rights. In late February, the administration proclaimed its plan to enforce a “Do Not Track” mechanism in major web browsers for implementation in the coming months. The push represents Washington’s first initiative since the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, was shot down in January.
While the mechanism is meant to provide consumers with tools to avoid being tracked, critics are calling the effort half-baked as it only addresses a certain class of data collectors. So-called “first party” websites, which include the likes of Google, Amazon, and various large publishers and search engines, will still be able to collect data on users and tailor ads to them accordingly. First-party websites are deemed so simply by the fact that consumers visit their site directly.
Third-party sites are comprised of ad networks that collect consumer data and tailor ads towards built-upon user profiles. DoubleClick, for instance, is considered one of the largest third-party sites, and incidentally is owned by Google. While much of the ad industry’s growing revenues are threatened by the potentially vast adoption of the “Do Not Track” mechanism, consumers can expect to see much of the Internet’s tracking remain. Google, for example, sees the majority of its revenue from first-party tracking on its own website via Google AdWords. With this kind of tracking remaining unaffected, we can surely expect more of the same when it comes to the big guns like Google.
According to research by the Pew Research Center, support for government intervention has shrunken since 2011. What’s the administration to do? Let us know what you think the government’s role should be in protecting consumer privacy!