At first glance, it seems obvious that consumers should fight against internet tracking. If you were an average internet user, would you be comfortable with anonymous data-mining companies watching your every click and move? Granted, we have already established that the image of a cigar-chewing Mafioso looking over your shoulder is inaccurate. A more important argument against this impending legislation is the fact that consumers gain many benefits from internet tracking that they might not immediately recognize.
Targeted marketing is a loaded term, with an undeserved negative connotation. If you are browsing the internet, and you click away from a food blog, you might notice an increase in culinary ads on headers and sidebars. That is targeted marketing at work. The cookies your browser took away from that Apple Brown Betty recipe is telling Google that you might be interested in buying a cook book. This type of information gathering prevents unfocused ‘shotgun’ marketing because marketers don’t have to litter the page with dozens of ads for random, uninteresting products.
Speaking of Google, this very form of internet tracking is what pays the bills to keep services like Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Search free. Facebook, Twitter, and thousands of other sites fall into the same category.
But what about those thousands of cookies littering the internet, each one loaded with potential consumer information? As the Wall Street Journal says, “Cookies are a surreptitious threat to privacy the way smoking is a surreptitious threat to health. If you don’t know about it, you haven’t been paying attention.” Cookies are essentially an unavoidable part of internet browsing, so it is pointless to use them as an argument for Do-Not-Track. Blocking cookies means blocking saved passwords, recommended buys, and some of the most user-friendly aspects of the internet.
“Self-regulation is the way to go. Some really restrictive legislation would harm American companies’ positions as well,” says Jerry Cerasale, SVP of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association in an interview with DMNews.com. Legislation created by lawyers, and approved by largely-uninformed consumers would prove to be harmful to both marketers and the people it is intended to protect. We can assume that since most of the writing about Do-Not-Track has utilized scare-tactics and misinformation, that the consumers supporting it are scared and misinformed. The best solution for internet tracking is likely going to come from the marketers themselves. Popular Science Magazine recently signed an agreement with Apple to be available as a digital subscription on the iPad. Its software comes with an opt-out option for user tracking statistics. They see it as a great first step, and a positive solution. For now, at least, we agree.
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