Are opt – out icons sufficient?

December 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Online advertising data collection is a very big topic right now. Last week the FTC and the Department of Commerce said companies supporting the advertisers lack the ability to self-regulate the online ad industry, which relies on tracking technology to keep much of the content on the web for free. The FTC wants to give consumers the ability to opt out of providing data used for marketing purposes. The solution that was proposed was a do not track list (similar to the do not call list) to stop online data collection.

Many of us know that stopping companies from collecting data won’t work on the internet. Publications make money serving the ads next to their content so readers don’t have to pay to read the publication. In the publication world if users requested to be on the do not track list there would be no ads on free websites such as New York Times, Newsweek, etc. and most publications would not survive.

One way in which advertisers are being compliant is an icon now appears on ads that leads consumers to an opt-out page and more information. Consumers also should have real-time information on what data is collected on them. Based on my experience recently a high percentage of media buys include a demo-target, geo-target, audience, age, or some variation of behavior targeting. If this ability to target based on behavior is removed, advertisers ROI is going to take a hit. Most marketers use behavioral data to be smarter about who they are targeting and if information isn’t shared or sold I don’t think consumers should be concerned. While regulations should be put into place surrounding selling user data I don’t see removing the ability to collect user data in violation of privacy laws.

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