FTC’s chairman, Jon Leibowitz, has expressed concern that “cookies and other data catchers” are increasingly collecting super-accurate profiles about online users. MediaPost reports:
FTC officials have repeatedly said they would like companies to allow people to opt out of online tracking by third parties, not just ad targeting. Current self-regulatory standards prohibit ad networks and others from sending targeted ads to users based on the data about which sites they visit, but don’t prevent companies from tracking users as they go from site to site. Leibowitz did say that “many if not most” people prefer receiving targeted ads to untargeted ones. Whether that’s empirically true probably depends a great deal on the nature of the ads. A coupon for a discount at the local movie theater might be better received than a discount for, say, a diet book.
While there are self-regulating internet standards for use of cookie tracking, it seems that fewer and fewer online businesses are holding themselves to them. On the other hand, a glance through the comments section of the foregoing linked article makes it quite clear that site users become non-too-happy when they discover that they are being tracked. Certainly, it seems, some online businesses can bring themselves out of the fold and perhaps capture a bit of extra market share by focusing resources on PR to hype their privacy friendly standards.
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