Amazon knows what books you want to buy. Google knows exactly when to display wedding dress ads when your fiancée borrows your laptop. Facebook politely keeps you logged in while you follow an unexpected link trail, patiently awaiting your return.
Has the internet become a thinking entity? Slowly observing your habits and decisions until it suddenly strikes with shockingly accurate marketing? In a way, yes. Internet marketers have always been tracking your every move online, but the technology has grown exponentially over the last few years. In an interesting-but-creepy move, some news websites use click-through technology to make live edits to online stories. Editors will track how far readers will scroll through a news article before losing interest, and they will change the article in real time to keep interest longer.
The FTC decided recently that all of this counts as an invasion of privacy, and has taken steps to introduce a ‘do-not-track’ option to all internet browsers. At face value, this seems like an obvious and helpful tool. Your personal information will be safe from prying eyes, and you can browse the internet in true anonymity, as it was intended. Under the surface of this plan however, there are many problems.
Many people tend to forget the sheer convenience of internet tracking. With a do-not-track option enabled, you can say goodbye to all cookies and tracking labels. This means that you will have to enter credit card and address information every time you purchase something online. You will have to enter your password every time you log in to (or navigate back to) a website, even multiple times in the same session. Not to mention those eerily-tailored ad banners (isn’t it occasionally helpful to see an ad pop up for the exact thing you were planning on shopping for?).
Perhaps more important than the convenience is the financial aspect. Targeted ads are big money. This is why marketing companies are so opposed to the FTC’s plan. However, tech companies like Google are just as upset about the whole thing. A significant amount of Google’s profits come from targeted advertising, and the loss of that revenue would have to be made up in other ways. This means that popular services like Gmail, Google News, and Google Maps would begin subscription plans. Even popular sites hosted on the Google network would have to start charging fees.
It can be universally agreed that privacy is a good thing. However, in the case of net tracking, is loss of privacy is a price worth paying?
Founded in 1989, WebbMason is one of the fastest-growing print and brand management service companies in the United States, helping marketing departments and their internal and external partners save money and streamline processes through a winning combination of industry expertise, exceptional print supply chain partners and technological innovation. Headquartered in Hunt Valley, Maryland, WebbMason has 20 sales offices throughout the United States.