The Fight For The Right To Track You Online

Advertisers, browser manufacturers, privacy advocates, Congress, and government entities are literally tangling with each other over online data-collecting mechanisms.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What's the Latest Development?

Earlier this month, Microsoft's announcement that its forthcoming Internet Explorer 10 will have "Do Not Track" set to "on" as the default caused the board of the Association of National Advertisers to write an open letter to Microsoft executives saying that the company should "realign with the broader business community" by making the Do Not Track option default to "off." Also, at a recent meeting of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to figure out global standards for tracking mechanisms, privacy advocates and advertising industry reps "accused each other of trying to stymie the process."

What's the Big Idea?

Marketers argue that by allowing sites to collect tracking data on its users in exchange for open access, they can survive and thrive by being able to promote rich content. One advertising industry consortium offers its own opt-out program, claiming that self-regulation "[works] very well...Why don't we give that a chance to succeed?" Privacy advocates like Dan Auerbach say that users "have a right to know how their information is being used and to opt out" in whatever way is best for them.  Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon D. Leibowitz believes there's something suspicious going on: "[T]here is clearly a rogue element of advertising networks that wants to subvert the process."

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