A group of Internet ad publishers is trying to stave off looming government regulation — by saying they’d allow consumers to opt out of “behavioural targeting” programs.
The group, which includes Yahoo! (YHOO), AOL’s Tacoda (TWX), and DoubleClick (GOOG), have released a densely written “self-regulatory code of conduct” designed to lull all but the most wired of readers to sleep. But the key part (PDF, Section III) is where the group promises that members will each post an “easy to use procedure for exercising choice” to opt out of any system that tracks where surfers visit and serves up ads accordingly.
The document, prepared by the “Network Advertisers Initiative”, is a response to the Federal Trade Commission’s own suggested rules. Want to weigh in? You have until June 12. But we’ll do it here: We don’t think “opt out” programs will mollify antsy regulators or skeeved-out consumers. There’s something inherently creepy about behavioural targeting, and neither this program or a penguin can fix that.
But! This isn’t a terribly hard problem to solve, either: Consumers say they care about privacy. But most of them don’t. Given the chance to get a free bag of Doritos or play along in Facebook or pretty much anything else, they’ll willingly offer up all sorts of personal info. So publishers just need to make their targeting programs opt-in: Give their visitors some kind of meaningless reward, and they’ll sign on without a peep.
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