[LINK] Privacy groups pitch "don't track me" ad server blacklist

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Thu Nov 1 12:26:23 AEDT 2007

Privacy groups pitch "don't track me" ad server blacklist
By Nate Anderson | Published: October 31, 2007 - 12:37PM CT

[Also http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/10/31/1640203 ]

The Do Not Call list has proved a huge hit with consumers. Now, a 
collection of privacy advocates wants the Federal Trade Commission to 
launch a similar Do Not Track List that will prevent behavioral 
advertisers from tracking online activities over time.

[And a document that came my way yesterday said that there are 
already 1.9 million numbers on the Australian Do Not Call Register]

The scheme is the brainchild of the Center for Democracy & 
Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other privacy 
watchdogs. Although it has the virtue of simplicity, implementing the 
plan does pose some practical challenges since it requires browser 
updates or new plug-ins.
At the heart of the new system is a list, maintained by the FTC, of 
all domain names that are mapped to behavioral advertising servers. 
All US advertisers would be required to submit domains to this list, 
and the list would then be downloaded by a web browser (or a browser 
plug-in). The list could be used to block tracking cookies from such 
sites, but would not function as a general filter on advertising.

(A schematic view of the Do Not Track system)

There is precedent for the idea-look at the built-in anti-phishing 
controls in both IE7 and Firefox for an example of how this sort of a 
list could work-but it's not quite as simple for consumers as typing 
a number into a web site and watching the telemarketing calls shrivel 
up and die. The simple fact that this could require browser updates 
or plug-ins might keep many users from making use of the list. The Do 
Not Track List also must be activated from every computer that a 
person uses in order to be most effective.

The proposal for the new list comes one day before the FTC holds a 
major conference of its own on behavioral advertising, and it comes 
amid mounting concern from privacy groups about the implications of 
the proposed Google/DoubleClick merger.

Although industry groups already have several opt-out systems in 
place for consumers (DoubleClick has its own system, for example), 
the privacy advocates don't believe that they are effective. 
Consumers usually need to go looking for such tools, and no single 
tool applies to every advertiser.
"If you look back at the Do Not Call list, it was at one time managed 
by industry. But it didn't gain widespread acceptance until the FTC 
took it over," said Pam Dixon, who heads the World Privacy Forum. 
"The industry has had seven years to prove they can manage online 
opt-outs.  It is time to move toward something structured like the Do 
Not Call list to address the problems we're seeing, and have now seen 
for seven years."

Roger Clarke                  http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in Info Science & Eng  Australian National University
Visiting Professor in the eCommerce Program      University of Hong Kong
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW

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