Do You Want Advertisers Monitoring Your Web Traffic?

Man using computer and cell phoneEvery day, it seems, marketers come up with new ways to reach out to potential customers. The latest method involves tracking consumers' web traffic. Consumers who disagree with this particular brand of market research are not alone.

In much the same way that Facebook tailors ads on someone's home page to match information in his profile, i.e. posting an ad for online dating services if the person is single, so, too, can advertisers tailor advertisements to match consumers' web traffic. According to a Gallup poll conducted in December 2010, consumers don't like that idea at all. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) agrees with them.

From Dec. 10-12, 2010, Gallup surveyed 1,019 randomly selected adults aged 18 and up, who live in the continental United States. More than two-thirds of those surveyed said they did not want advertisers to be allowed to match ads to the consumers' specific tastes based on the websites they visited. When asked whether or not they thought such methods were justified if it meant maintaining free access to websites, 61% said having free access to websites wasn't worth giving up their privacy to advertisers.

A press release on the FTC website states that on Dec. 2, 2010, the FTC told told Congress that while the Commission recognizes that consumers may benefit in certain ways from the practice of tracking consumers online to serve targeted advertising, the agency supports giving consumers a “Do Not Track” option because the practice is largely invisible to consumers, and they should have a simple, easy way to control it. The FTC proposes that Do Not Track would be a persistent setting on consumers’ Web browsers.

Also in December 2010, Microsoft announced the inclusion of a "tracking protection" feature in its latest version of Internet Explorer, which would allow consumers to block the sharing of information with advertisers on the web pages they visit. 

You can block telemarketers from calling you, thanks to the "Do Not Call" list. Soon, you will also be able to prevent advertisers from bombarding you with ads thanks to Microsoft's upcoming "tracking protection" feature on Internet Explorer. With any luck, implementation of the FTC's proposed "Do Not Track" option won't be far behind.
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