Legislators slam advertising group for advising members to avoid Do Not Track technology
By End the Lie
Representatives Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called out the massive Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) – a group of advertising trade groups – for their statement which advised companies to completely ignore the already weak privacy features of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
The DAA’s statement was far from surprising given the fact that the industry is in fact focused on data mining. Considering the troubling developments like Google’s patented technology which can tailor advertisements based on environmental information like background sounds, this effort to collect massive amounts of data which is then passed off to government agencies will only get more intense.
While Reps. Barton and Markey aren’t bringing the issue of the collaboration between companies like Google and the U.S. intelligence community, their privacy concerns are inextricably linked.
Markey and Barton co-chair the Bipartisan Privacy Caucus and, in addressing the DAA’s statement, said the advertising industry is putting “profits over privacy.”
The DAA’s statement comes after Microsoft announced this June that they will make Microsoft’s Internet Explorer’s default setting one which requests that third-party advertisers do not track the browsing activity of users.
However, as the previous sentence might have made clear to some, this is a request. It does not force the advertisers to not track you.
Note: If you want to avoid as much tracking as possible (which is getting increasingly difficult) please explore my easily followed guides available here and here and implement as many of the methods as you can.
“The other major Web browsers also offer a “Do Not Track” feature, but Explorer was the first to have the setting as its default,” Brendan Sasso of The Hill rightly points out.
The industry’s perspective on the Do Not Track issue is even more absurd when one realizes that just 8.6 percent of people who use the desktop version of Mozilla Firefox have enabled the Do Not Track feature.
Some sites like Wired have gone as far as to essentially demand users “trust” their site if they want to read all of the content as you can see in the below screenshot:
Yet the DAA is staunchly opposed to anything that would increase that number even slightly, such as the default Do Not Track feature in Internet Explorer.
“Machine-driven do not track does not represent user choice; it represents browser-manufacturer choice,” stated the DAA.
“Allowing browser manufacturers to determine the kinds of information users receive could negatively impact the vast consumer benefits and Internet experiences delivered by DAA participants and millions of other Web sites that consumers value,” the DAA wrote.
This comes after advertisers already agreed earlier this year to stop tracking users’ browsing activity if they had the Do Not Track option enabled in their browser.
That being said, at the time none of the major browsers had Do Not Track enabled as a default setting.
“A ‘default on’ do-not-track mechanism offers consumers and businesses inconsistencies and confusion instead of comfort and security,” the DAA claimed.
Barton and Markey countered this claim by pointing out that the DAA’s perspective has it essentially backwards. They argue – rightly, in my opinion – that users should have to opt-in to allow advertisers to track them across the internet.
“If consumers want to be tracked online, they should have to opt-in to be tracked, instead of the other way around,” Markey and Barton said in a statement.
“While we appreciate the efforts industry has taken to develop a ‘Do Not Track’ signal, we have long endorsed a standard that allows consumers to affirmatively choose whether to permit collection of their personal information and targeting of advertisements,” they continued.
“Until we have stronger privacy laws in place that mandate a company adhere to a consumer’s preference, especially for children and teens, consumers and their personal information will remain at risk,” Barton and Markey stated.
Indeed, our personal information is at risk and not only from advertisers but also from those government agencies they eagerly work with. Unless legitimate privacy protection legislation is passed, we can only reasonably expect it to get worse.
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