Wednesday, August 31

Opting Out: How Important Is Privacy?

PrivacyDanny Brown's recent rant about Klout could not have been better timed. The company, like many analytic-based companies, makes money tracking consumer behavior and they do it whether you want them to or not. And they do it at the peril of their own industry.

On Monday, Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, Calif., called the self-regulatory privacy program created by online advertisers a failure on the same day it begins.

The advocacy group outlined several areas where the self-regulated program fails to address consumer concerns for a comprehensive "do not track" option. According to the advocacy group, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) fails on several fronts.

Current online privacy failures, according to Consumer Watchdog.

• Consumers are not notified before tracking begins of how and why they are being tracked.
• Consumers can only "opt out" by clearing cookies, and then their opt-out choice is cleared.
• Companies are currently not required to participate; only 11 percent of advertisements do.
• Enforcement is limited to the FTC, but not state attorneys general or individual consumers.
• The elective opt-out program does not currently apply to mobile devices.

"Consumers have no more control today than they did yesterday over whether their information is tracked and collected by companies online," said Carmen Balber, Washington director for Consumer Watchdog. "This industry program is another example of the failure of self-regulation to protect consumers from unwanted monitoring of every move they make on the Internet and their mobile devices."

According to Consumer Watchdog, the only recourse is action to be taken by Congress and the FTC. Consumer Watchdog did not address other tracking companies such as analytic-based companies that collect data and then sell the information to companies, marketers, and anyone hoping to target consumers with perks.

One of the most recent surprise participants in targeting is Stephen King. King is allowing an advanced ebook copy of his new book Mile 81 to be distributed to targeted people. The irony is King recently launched a Green Party talk show on two of his radio stations, claiming to be a little bit left. The Green Party is against Internet targeting without opt out.

The split between public and private activities online.

Consumers have growing concerns about privacy issues, primarily because of continued abuse. On one hand, they have every right to be. We seem far, far away from the original FTC direction.

On the other hand, people are generally too free with their information online. The latter story talks about kids, but adults share more than kids on any given day. And what they don't give up normally, they're willing to give up for an incentive.

What do you think? Is it time to make dramatic changes to the amount of information marketers and analytic companies collect or do people need to come to the conclusion that we lost our privacy somewhere back in 2009?
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