New Plan: Don't want to be Tracked? Fine
By Ken Magill
In an effort to surpass Utah for state Internet-legislative idiocy, California lawmakers are moving on a “Do-Not-Track” bill they hope will influence federal Internet advertising legislation.
Translation: they hope their bill will spread their stupidity into Congress and make alarmist, industry-crushing asininity the law of the land.
According to the International Business Times, the bill—dubbed SB 761—passed its first hurdle recently when California’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 to move it forward.
"Once again California is leading the way in protecting privacy rights," John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project, said in a statement. "We hope the California legislation prompts action at the national level."
So does the bill’s lead sponsor Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, according to the International Business Times.
Among the bill’s more idiotic provisions is one that would give California’s attorney general the option to impose an “access” requirement forcing companies that collect Internet usage data to make it available to individuals whose behavior has been monitored.
Think about that provision for a moment: If California’s AG imposes the access requirement called for in SB-761, companies that currently collect anonymous information would have to collect personally identifiable information, attach it to previously anonymous online behavior and store it in usable form so they could respond to consumers requests.
Attention hackers and would-be 419 phishers: California’s about to force online advertising vendors to create a bunch of new targets just for you.
Predictably, the reporter who filed the piece covering California’s Do-Not-Track bill referenced the federal Do-Not-Call list for comparison.
The reporter shouldn’t be blamed for making such an asinine comparison. After all, every proponent of do not track uses do not call to make their case.
But do not call means don’t call a specific number. Do not track means, well what exactly?
In order to comply with a do-not-track list, companies would have to know who not to track. As a result, they would have to collect more consumer data than they do now and keep it on file.
And call me crazy, but my guess is the moment one of these companies suffers an inevitable data breach, SB-761 sponsor Lowenthal will be the first to propose a new law aimed at punishing the company or companies that suffered the breach as a result of the requirements his do-not-track idiocy imposed in the first place.
In any case, don’t browsers already offer people the tools to block cookies and, therefore, opt out of being tracked for advertising purposes?
Here’s an idea: By all means, anyone who doesn’t want their computer’s activity tracked online should have their wishes respected.
But they should suffer the consequences of their choice.
Behaviorally targeted advertising works like gangbusters. For example, my wife is a media VP for a large ad agency.
Using behaviorally targeted online advertising, she and her team were able to drive the price of leads for the U.S. Tennis Association down from $4 to $1 each.
“They had their first million-visit year with us,” she said.
It is success stories like the USTA’s online lead program that drive the online economy, provide so many jobs, and make available to consumers an unprecedented array of free goods and services.
The information driving behaviorally targeted advertising is the currency in the most mutually beneficial, mass value-for-value transaction in human history.
People who opt their computers out of being tracked are opting out of that transaction. The rest of us should be insulted that these folks think they are entitled to the same Internet as those of us who pay for it by allowing our behavior to be harmlessly, anonymously monitored.
As a result, I say let’s mount an industry-wide campaign instructing people how to block cookies from being placed on their browsers while explaining how behaviorally targeted ads benefit them.
And then every website that relies on advertising revenue should block browsers that don’t allow cookies. Moreover, ecommerce website owners who buy behaviorally targeted ads to drive traffic should charge higher prices to those who shop on them using computers that don’t allow cookies.
Don’t want participate in the behaviorally targeted ad market? Fine, but then you morally have no right to the same Internet experience the rest of us have.