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FTC Proposes Do Not Track List For the Web

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the don't-follow dept.

Privacy 173

An anonymous reader writes "The Federal Trade Commission proposed allowing consumers to opt out of having their online activities tracked on Wednesday as part of the agency's preliminary report on consumer privacy. FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said he would prefer for the makers of popular web browsers to come up with a setting on their own that would allow consumers to opt out of having their browsing and search habits tracked."

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173 comments

Booooo!! (5, Insightful)

mweather (1089505) | more than 3 years ago | (#34408944)

It should be opt-in.

Re:Booooo!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409002)

Not should be. Must be!

Re:Booooo!! (0, Flamebait)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409214)

Not should be. Must be!

Why? This would mean that American online companies would no longer be competitive with those in other countries. Tracking brings in BIG BUCKS. When you take away, say 80% of advertising profits, but you can still make those profits in Europe, Australia, or Asia, you're going to go there. With an opt-in system, fewer people are going to register as most people don't care anyway. Less profit would be lost, and the costs of relocating would still far outweigh the benefits.

Guessing that you're the OP responding to the OP as AC, sigh. :\

MOD PARENT UP!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409292)

Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!
 
The enlightened TrisexualPuppy rings the bells of excellence. Throw the dog a modpoint!

Re:Booooo!! (1, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409372)

Tracking brings in BIG BUCKS.

[citation required]

Tracking certainly brings in BIG BUCKS for tracking companies, but is there any evidence that it actually brings in much money for anyone else?

Re:Booooo!! (2)

ArundelCastle (1581543) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409464)

...but is there any evidence that it actually brings in much money for anyone else?

I doesn't need to bring in tangible amounts of money to producers. It only needs to provide enough stats for marketers to convince producers to keep paying marketers. And that is how the web goes round.

Dirty little secret of advertising (3, Interesting)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410346)

A while back I worked on what was going to be a local newspaper's first website, so I got to learn a bit about their business. Their 'dirty little secret' was that, while the newspaper could rightly say that their free paper reached over 95% of all households in the county, and that the actual readership was quite high (IIRC something like 70%), they _never_ publicized the probability that an ad on Page X would be seen by anybody. The probability was very close to zero, except for certain specialties like the front of the weekly car ads section, and parts of the classifieds. They actually had some numbers, such as what percentage of households actually opened the paper, actually looked at the first page of the sport section, etc. But none of that was given to the advertisers.

Web tracking has changed the old saying "I know I'm wasting 1/2 of my advertising money - I just don't know which half!", possibly forever.

Re:Booooo!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409770)

Where did you think Google got all its money? Adsense, MAYBE?
 
I wonder how Adsense works...

Re:Booooo!! (2)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409466)

Really? Most people don't care to be tracked? I can't imagine why.

Bill Hicks said it best. "Quit putting a god damn dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!"

www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo

Re:Booooo!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409102)

It should be opt-in.

Why are we being tracked in the first place? No-fly lists? PATRIOT act? GPS devices attached to vehicles if they are in driveways? How do we know for sure the government isn't tracking us after we ask them not to / make software to "get around" their tracking?

We must all be potential terrorists, jihadists, Osama Bin-Laden, Pipe-bombers, WMD owners, and...now I'm being tracked.

Re:Booooo!! (0)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409314)

It is opt in. They don't have any info on you that you do not provide to them.

Re:Booooo!! (0)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409410)

Ah, arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient of you!

Re:Booooo!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409746)

how can something factually correct be "stupid"?

Re:Booooo!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34410410)

Because there is no privileged frame of reference, the Earth doesn't really orbit the Sun; you could say that the Sun orbits the Earth just as easily by changing the math around.

See, it's easy. Factually correct and stupid at the same time.

Re:Booooo!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409706)

It should be opt-in.

Then let's start with the webservers.

Any slashdotters which have turned off access logging on their webservers? Or at least turned to anonymous access logging (like mod_removeip for Apache)?

For the love of cock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409768)

Grow some balls, man!

Re:Booooo!! (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410492)

It should be opt-in.

Yes, it should. But that doesn't matter, because:

1. It's unenforceable.
2. The Republicans would never allow it, since:
  a. It's proposed by Obama's people, and
  b. It might restrict some business' God-given right to make a profit.

Opt-out? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34408948)

Shouldn't that be opt-in?

Standard GUI? (4, Insightful)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 3 years ago | (#34408976)

I'm all for a standard GUI for doing so, but the "other side" (those who do the tracking) must also cooperate by actually observing the setting (no matter how it should be delivered to them; perhaps via HTTP header). If observing it would be mandatory, then hooray; otherwise, meh.

Re:Standard GUI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409038)

That sounds like walking into a crowed room and then asking everyone to not look at what you're doing. Then you realise you're not wearing any pants.

Re:Standard GUI? (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409066)

If it were a law that they don't look at me, it would be a reasonable expectation, albeit questionably enforceable.

Re:Standard GUI? (2)

neumayr (819083) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409462)

You can reasonable expect people to follow unenforcable and not universally accepted laws? Seriously?

Re:Standard GUI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34410680)

You can reasonable expect people to follow unenforcable and not universally accepted laws? Seriously?

Given the largest trackers are US companies (or companies the US could find someway to fine) like Google, Webtrends, Microsoft, and Facebook, I think it is totally enforceable.

Now whether it is universally excepted thats another story. Companies not following US laws could still get away with it, but I suspect the majority of tracking would be willing to accept the 'OPT OUT' flag.

Re:Standard GUI? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409124)

I'm all for a standard GUI for doing so, but the "other side" (those who do the tracking) must also cooperate by actually observing the setting (no matter how it should be delivered to them; perhaps via HTTP header). If observing it would be mandatory, then hooray; otherwise, meh.

Exactly. But the web is a client/server architecture. You don't own the server. So the only way to make it mandatory is to make it opt-out.

As in, with a client-side setting, I opt out of sending my user-agent, I opt out of sending the referrer-ID, I opt out of letting the opposing site set cookies, I opt out (via router, HOSTS file, and ad-blocking proxy) of ever sending a single packet to user-tracking organizations such as Facebook, Doubleclick, Google Analytics, etc...

The only way to make "opt out" work is on the client side, because it's the only side where the user actually has control over what the server sees. We already have "opt in": it's called "Log into Facebook, Twitter, or your social network of choice, continue to browse the rest of the web, and let the little 'social network buttons' track you."

Re:Standard GUI? (1)

TobiX (565623) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410206)

Or maybe we should revise the decade-old HTTP protocol to better define the scope of cookies and of (misspelled) referrer headers.
That is, until fingerprinting the clock skew becomes commonplace.

A giant centralized list for... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34408978)

spammers! Brilliant, thank you FTC!

Re:A giant centralized list for... (2)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409008)

Didn't read TFA, but maybe it's not a list. An HTTP header announcing the preference for not being tracked would do the trick, as long as the other party were obliged to actually listen to your setting.

Re:A giant centralized list for... (1)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409182)

Didn't read TFA, but maybe it's not a list. An HTTP header announcing the preference for not being tracked would do the trick, as long as the other party were obliged to actually listen to your setting.

Setting the evil bit, huh?

Re:A giant centralized list for... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409252)

An HTTP header announcing the preference for not being tracked would do the trick, as long as the other party were obliged to actually listen to your setting.

But in the real world such a header would just become another bit to go into your 'unique fingerprint' for the advertisers. And it would mean that advertisers would be even more eager to send you crap.

Re:A giant centralized list for... (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409370)

As long as the real world consists only of companies that don't mind lawsuits and FTC investigations and fines.

Sure, there are plenty of such companies, mostly not in the U.S. But the only thing enforcing the Do Not Call list is the legal repercussions for ignoring it, and it's pretty effective.

Re:A giant centralized list for... (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409928)

But in the real world such a header would just become another bit to go into your 'unique fingerprint' for the advertisers.

In the real world, the big fish such as Google/Microsoft/Facebook etc would generally honor it, because they will get investigated, caught, and fined heavily if they don't.

The law is effective at restricting law abiding citizens and organizations. And that's precisely what we need here.

Re:A giant centralized list for... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410548)

Exactly, right now tracking is ubiquitus. The value/destructiveness of tracking does not increase linearly with added trackers. One site tracking you is just running it's own site. Two sites sharing tracking are not much of a problem. As the number of sites increase, it becomes a real problem. If cross site tracking were illegal, you would still get a few sites doing it, but the would be few and far between, and thus not a problem. As with any conspiracy, the bigger it is the harder it is to keep contained. Thus any large scale and truly harmful tacking would just not work.

Re:A giant centralized list for... (2)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409362)

Right... So as a guy running a web server I'm supposed to "forget" about you probing my server trying to break in because you have the "Don't track me" header set.

We already have such a setting. Tools->Options->Privacy->Uncheck "Accept cookies." Some web sites work with it unchecked. Some don't. Make your choice whether you want their content.

Re:A giant centralized list for... (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409954)

We already have such a setting. Tools->Options->Privacy->Uncheck "Accept cookies." Some web sites work with it unchecked. Some don't. Make your choice whether you want their content.

Its pretty trivial to track you even if you have cookies unchecked.

Re:A giant centralized list for... (1)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410646)

A lot of legit apps would not work. Logging in would not work on a lot of the web, for example. I really care about my email.

And your straw man argument sucks. Having a log that is cleaned after 24h, after establishing that a user at some IP is not doing anything suspicious, is one thing. Tracking the user in order to identify behavioral patterns is another.

*sigh* (1)

Marc Desrochers (606563) | more than 3 years ago | (#34408998)

Because all those "remove me from your mailing list" options have worked so well...

Re:*sigh* (4, Informative)

TheRealFixer (552803) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409106)

In my personal experience, the FTC's Do Not Call list has actually worked pretty well. I used to get considerable numbers of telemarketing calls every night, but about 6 months after adding all my numbers to the list, they've almost completely stopped. And on the very, very rare occasion that I do get one, a quick mention that this number is on the Federal Do Not Call list sends them into a near panic state, scrambling to hang up.

Re:*sigh* (2)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409542)

I'll second this. In addition, the Direct Marketing Association and pre-approved credit card opt-outs have worked very well. I get almost zero junk mail. See this for details: World Privacy Forum's Top Ten Opt Outs [worldprivacyforum.org]

Re:*sigh* (2)

Stellian (673475) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409632)

In my personal experience, the FTC's Do Not Call list has actually worked pretty well.

That's because a personal phone call from a live human costs alot and anyone who uses this method must target it's customer base very well to be cost-effective. In turn, it's almost certainly a US business, operating on US soil, and care about the FTC. If they violate the DNC list, you incur a high cost, and are likely to do something about it, like report them.

No so on the Internets. Tracking is 100% automatic, and non-intrusive. Only a minority of the sites doing the tracking are from your country (this is true most everywhere except maybe US). If they feel the local law is too restrictive, the add-farm can always reincorporate in the Solomon Isles, with no impact on the user experience. The vast majority of users don't care if they're being watched, so don't hold your breath for a regulatory solution.

The economics of the issue say a "do not track" list is going even less effective the a "do not spam list". A passive DNT browser setting (ex. a meta tag) will be ignored, and an active one will incur a cost for the user - it's extremely hard, even for the informed user, to discern among, say login and tracking cookies. Again, the economic pressue means that the add-farm with the best tracking can make the most money, and you can bet they will fight to stay competitive and track the users.

Re:*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34410290)

Another thing with opt-out as opposed to opt-in is that we don't have static IPs. How are you going to technologically 'opt out' if your IP address changes every time you start up your computer/router? What about ISPs using NAT that don't actually provide individual IPs? Is the plan to give everyone an individual IPv6 addres in order to make this work?

Seems to me that this is a very ill-thought out plan given the current state of the internet.

Plus it seems likely the feds would use this list to begin profiling 'undesirables' for further scrutiny.
Kinda like slashdot postings.... Hmmmm.

Re:*sigh* (2)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409638)

What's different about this is that telemarketers who call you already know who you are: they have your phone number. The only way a web site would be able to comply with a Do No Track database is for you to identify yourself unambiguously to them, information they do not have, and which would not be safe to hand over, unsecured, to any web site that asks for it.

Re:*sigh* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409986)

Telemarketers only have a vague notion of who they are calling. I used to answer the phone only to be asked by the caller if could speak to Mr or Mrs . I'd simply tell then no because they didn't know who they wanted to speak to. One time the person got offended and put their manager on to try to give me crap for being rude. Simply amazing.

Re:*sigh* (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409924)

Allow me to just "me too" on your comment.

What happens is that once a person does an "opt-out" there are some teeth in the recourse that an individual can take.

The trouble I have is that you would first have to make yourself trackable in order to opt out. We also need to stipulate what things can and cannot be used in tracking to make such a law workable. As we know, there are a LOT of sneaky ways to track users. We need to also limit how people are tracked. Also, we need to have proof positive that we aren't being tracked. After all, in the case of "do not call" you can pretty much tell because you aren't being called. In the case of "do not track" it's really really hard to know if you are being tracked or not.

Is that even possible? (1)

lastrogue (1773302) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409004)

I'd be interested to see if this is even possible. From what I understand, which is somewhat limited, it is virtually impossible to completely wipe browser information as it is sometimes required to act a certain way when interfacing with a website. can someone prove me wrong? any suggestion to applications or add-ins for browsers would be sweet too.

Re:Is that even possible? (2)

ivucica (1001089) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409048)

It's not possible unless you limit valid uses of technologies such as cookies, too. But if some sort of a law were introduced requiring those who do the tracking to observe your setting, then it'd be possible; they'd simply have to ignore your request for their "tracking service" if you supply a header such as "X-DNT: True".

Re:Is that even possible? (2)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409200)

As someone else has already noted, this only works if the website you are visiting is willing to abide by those policies. Do Not Call list is one thing-those calls usually originate from companies that are based in the US (even if the call center is not), and it is also fairly easy to realize if someone has called you in violation of this list. It is more difficult for a website. How do they expect to enforce this on a website owned by a company that is not US? In addition, its a lot harder to tell if a website has tracked you. Those who know how to check if they are being tracked know enough to block the tracking, and don't need this list in the first place.

Re:Is that even possible? (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409330)

I'd be interested to see if this is even possible. From what I understand, which is somewhat limited, it is virtually impossible to completely wipe browser information as it is sometimes required to act a certain way when interfacing with a website.

Using HTTP headers and browser data during a session to support features, degrade gracefully, etc, is not really a problem.
The "store, collate, correlate and share with others" cycle is the real problem.

better idea: (2)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409006)

the TSA should implement a "do not molest" list.

Re:better idea: (1)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409684)

the TSA should implement a "do not molest" list.

Yeah, and it would be easy to make - just copy-paste the latest census results!

l2chrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409010)

incognito mode? everything else is tracked by the websites?

Re:l2chrome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409596)

Conversation quality around here has degenerated to the point of "l2chrome" and all-lowercase sentences.

Exceptions? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409018)

The Do-not-call list provided exceptions for politicians and non profits. Will we just see currently existing unscrupulous entities just create associated 501c3's to get around the tracking block? Just like there is a loophole for the do not call list, there will be one for this. Assuming, of course, it ever comes into being.

Re:Exceptions? (1)

DeadPixels (1391907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409052)

Of course. It also seems to me that in order to know who not to track, some tracking has to be done...perhaps better protections for anonymity is the trick, rather than a regulated list.

copt-in (0)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409026)

Can I completely opt out of being tracked by the government for associating with known felons (reading slashdot for instance).

Re:copt-in (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409216)

or known sexual offenders and pedophiles (for anyone who has been through airport security recently).

It's called P3P (5, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409078)

P3P [w3.org]

The Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P) enables Websites to express their privacy practices in a standard format that can be retrieved automatically and interpreted easily by user agents. P3P user agents will allow users to be informed of site practices (in both machine- and human-readable formats) and to automate decision-making based on these practices when appropriate. Thus users need not read the privacy policies at every site they visit.

Did they not already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409088)

"... web browsers to come up with an setting on their own that would allow consumers to opt out of having their browsing and search habits tracked"

Firefox already did this. It's called the extension mechanism. (Chrome didn't: theirs runs after download, which means it's useless for privacy).

If you *really* care a lot, the above plus an anonymous proxy.

Anyone who cares can already opt out of being tracked. The last thing I want is the govt damaging my ability to do this out of some bureaucratic misguided attempt to "protect me". I can already protect my privacy - the only possible outcome of this is that they damage my ability to do that, because protecting my privacy *from them* is not what they mean.

Re:Did they not already? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409304)

Anyone who cares can already opt out of being tracked.

ORLY? Try not to be tracked by Facebook. The Facebook and twitter icons on http://slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org] come from a.fsdn.com
You could try and block that URL, but then slashdot looks pretty messy as there are some CSS files as well.

Re:Did they not already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409530)

> ORLY

RLY.

> The Facebook and twitter icons on http://slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org] [slashdot.org] come from a.fsdn.com

I don't see any facebook or twitter icons on slashdot, so I'm not sure what you're talking about there. Perhaps you are letting facebook and twitter track you, which is why you see those icons and I don't?

Re:Did they not already? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409852)

Anyone who cares can already opt out of being tracked.

ORLY? Try not to be tracked by Facebook. The Facebook and twitter icons on http://slashdot.org/ [slashdot.org] come from a.fsdn.com
You could try and block that URL, but then slashdot looks pretty messy as there are some CSS files as well.

Perhaps you were just trolling for the LOLs, but I looked at the source and the icon pix are served up by fsdn not FB and the href doesn't seem to contain any user info.

Remember how spam used to mean unsolicited commercial email, but AOL users called any email that they didn't want, "spam", essentially equating the delete button with the report spam button, and all the trouble that caused? I think we might be seeing the meaning of "tracking" change from recording your online activities toward something more like "I see a href link to a place I don't like, therefore I'm being tracked by that place"

Awesome idea for a perfect world (1)

kheldan (1460303) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409120)

I'm all for this, I think it would be wonderful and beautiful to just change a setting in my browser and never have to question whether I'm being surveiled or not. It'll never work though. Corporations want what they want, and they'll find a way to track you regardless. I don't even think that making it illegal to track people's online habits would really stop them. The federal "Do not call" list only works up to a point, if someone doesn't give a shit about the law and thinks they can get away with it, they'll ring you up anyway.

Koreans to comply with the FTC? (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409154)

Lets face it, the local do not call registers barely work. I manage to report about 8 companies a year to our Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about calls I get to our number. The fines are usually quite hefty especially for repeat offenders. Somehow I doubt that companies will bow down and obey instructions from an international company who's laws don't govern them.

Re:Koreans to comply with the FTC? (2)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409234)

Koreans typically don't tend to care quite as much about tracking Americans' browsing to advertise at them. Most websites most Americans visit are owned and operated by American companies, as it turns out.

Re:Koreans to comply with the FTC? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409432)

The do not call list works GREAT, but only if you block all calls without caller ID information. Most of the people who will spam you with valid caller ID info will make an effort not to call you back if you are on the list and you tell them so, especially if you announce to them that you are reporting them for the call, and then DO SO. There's a webform, it's not tricky.

how would it work (4, Insightful)

penguinbroker (1000903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409156)

My brain's a little slow today... how would this work? How would this be enforced? Since when can websites tell exactly who we are (which I am assuming will be required to verify that the user is or is not on the list)?

Re:how would it work (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409666)

My brain's a little slow today... how would this work?

There are two answers, work as in successfully meet objectives, and work as in good enough for govt work.

The work as in meet objectives, would be package a browser addon basically privoxy aka www.privoxy.org, or mandate the installation of something like privoxy with all browser installations. If the EU can demand winders not ship with "X" maybe the FTC can demand winders ship with a working privoxy install.

The work as in good enough for govt work, would be add a line to the browser string, "please dont track me" and hope for the best. Yet another example of prayer based initiatives applied toward govt work.

Re:how would it work (1)

penguinbroker (1000903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409978)

I understand the concept of browsing without being tracked. My question is how to enforce a 'do not track' list. Which is distinctly different from a 'do not track' browser feature.

Re:how would it work (1)

penguinbroker (1000903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410456)

Thanks for the explanation anyway though.

Re:how would it work (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410432)

More to the point, how am I supposed to know when someone is violating it?

I can tell when someone fails to use the do-not-call registry or ignores a do-not-email checkbox setting, but tracking me as I browse is a passive activity. Am I supposed to search through my cookies? And how will I know the tracking cookies from the session and configuration persistence cookies?

Take the person who proposed this and send them to Pakistan to look for the tallest man there. Doesn't seem like there are enough people doing that, while this is kind of half-baked.

the ftc doesn't want to grab more power? (1)

PoolOfThought (1492445) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409162)

Most of the time the US government wants to tell us how to do things and in doing so they prefer to limit our options. "We'll do it for you... and you'll like it or else" tends to be their mantra.
I wonder why in this the case the head of the FTC would rather the private sector (the browser makers) be the ones to add functionality to thwart the tracking... could it be they would only gain power over the advertisers (which is WAY smaller than the general population - so why bother?)
If they actually cared, then why not set up a simple list like the "do not call" list and require anyone that wants to track to go there and get approved. Then allow opt-outs through some channel. Then, anyone caught still tracking after that point is in federal trouble - as opposed to browser makers have to code around the tracking violators.

How about we finish the DNC List first? (3, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409222)

I have a land line (it comes over my cable connection) because we only have one mobile phone and use the 400 minutes as our long distance service thus it's cheaper for us to have family call us on the land line. Aside from the handful of calls we get from family the rest of the time it's from scammers "trying to lower your interest rate on your credit card," who hang up when you press them for who they are or companies who do not follow the DNC list.

These companies know they have little chance of being prosecuted under the law so I end up with numerous phone calls and fights with supervisors of these companies to not call me again. Yet they keep trying to sell newspaper subscriptions and rug cleanings to me.

So after three phone calls from one company I finally get enough information to file a complaint with the FCC. I submit that complaint and it's rejected three different times for lack of information. While the FCC agent attempts to be helpful the entire process is cumbersome and difficult. I lack any confidence the calls will stop or the company will pay and even if they do the fine will be minimal and they'll just consider it the cost of doing business.

---

So back to this particular new trend. Yeah, great, no more tracking online. It's a lot easier for me to block that stuff online while still enjoying a relatively easy browsing experience than it is for me to stop calls from ringing my phone which would include turning the ringer off (no, I'm not paying for call block or caller ID).

If the government wants to do this, and I'd love them to, they need to ensure that the laws, policies and enforcement are viable and actually benefit people rather than creating a whole new useless bureaucracy which spends money and doesn't accomplish a damn thing.

Re:How about we finish the DNC List first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409488)

Don't you have caller id? Why do you answer calls you don't recognize (I'm serious, I've done this for years now and anyone I actually did want to speak to always leaves a useful voicemail, my voicemail message is just an electronically read phone number). I can't help you with the ringer problem. In a programmable cell phone I'm sure you can automute calls that you don't recognize and send them to voicemail. For a landline you're going to need some sort of fancy phone or box that sits in front of it for this.

Good Luck With That (2)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409346)

Besides the simple fact that there currently isn't a good way to implement an opt-out database (yet) and doing so on a national level between several websites would be a nearly impossible nightmare, you also have to consider the fact that:

1) There is no good way to enforce this as the legal boundaries end at our borders. There wouldn't be much to stop offshore data collection.

2) The most harmful types of data collection are those people that do it for malicious purposes like phishing. I really don't think a US law is going to stop them anyways.

-also-
3) What constitutes "tracking?" There are web aps and addons that track your usage of a page for simple things like counting the number of visitors, or much more complex things like demographic account collection to tune web ads to best suit you. There are also versions that do this that don't permanently record your information and just go on a session-by-session basis. If you even have the capability of differentiating what tracking is occurring (which is nearly impossible in the first place) where does the line get drawn?

Re:Good Luck With That (1)

CaptainPatent (1087643) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409526)

P.S. - the short version of this story should be:

"Politicians with little knowledge of computers are talking about the internet again."

Re:Good Luck With That (1)

Floody (153869) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409876)

P.S. - the short version of this story should be:

"Politicians with little knowledge of computers are talking about the internet again."

I don't expect the FTC chairman to be tech savvy, but there isn't anyone at the FTC that can tell him what is and isn't technically feasible?

Re:Good Luck With That (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34410384)

Isn't that called an education session with industry lobbists?

How do you get a job advising the FTC on tech policy? "Experience" with industry.

Re:Good Luck With That (1)

ArundelCastle (1581543) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409702)

I've never had a mod point to give, but I wish I could for you.

Canada's Do Not Call list has already proven to be a treasure trove for data mining by the U.S. and others. For $50 you can get more reliable information than on a $3000 e-mail address list. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Do_Not_Call_List#Criticism [wikipedia.org]

The one thing a government can do is provide a framework for people to complain when other people don't do what they're supposed to.
How's that been working out, historically? Anyone with an ounce of sense would agree it's more effective to not give someone the chance in the first place. Telemarketing happened because phone companies were obligated to publish lists of landlines, and we allowed them to charge *extra* to withhold our information.

People are so gullible they might as well start a Be Anonymous list. "Give us your contact information and nobody will be legally allowed to use this list to know who you are. Also the list is only valid for the next 5 years."

...thought your cunning plan all the way through? (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409404)

So how exactly are websites going to keep track of who has opted out of being tracked?

"To affirm that you do not consent to appearing in a list, please add your name to this list."

Re:...thought your cunning plan all the way throug (2)

Nevo (690791) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409484)

I came here to say this. Me: "Don't track me." Them: "Thanks for visiting our website! In order to know whether or not we should track you, please tell us who you are." In order for this to work, the web would have to abandon any pretense of anonymity. Which do you think is the lesser of two evils? I know where my vote goes.

Re:...thought your cunning plan all the way throug (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409644)

Yeah. I can't think of a way to make this system work, except using a database which would constitute the kind of personally-identified tracking system that it seeks to prevent. In order to get website maintainers to comply with these rules, the government would have to provide them with exactly that data which they're being forbidden to collect, and then, I don't know - put them on the honour system, make them pinky-swear not to use it for anything but the intended purpose? Is that the plan?

incognito mode (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409424)

The major players will just create entities outside of the FTC's jurisdiction; what the hell is the FTC going to do?

Surf behind a proxy or a large NAT, and use your browser's "incogneto" or "private browsing" mode frequently.
-A

Isn't this self-contradicting? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409442)

You have to register yourself on a big public list in order to prevent websites from tracking you.

Re:Isn't this self-contradicting? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409608)

If you have to register yourself via a website, then the joke circle will be complete.

so... (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409456)

So I get to trade being tracked by people that want to sell me cookware for being tracked by the federal government?

Re:so... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409588)

So I get to trade being tracked by people that want to sell me cookware for being tracked by the federal government?

Oh, you're already being tracked by the government.

What is so special about Wednesday ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409468)

Why don't they want me to opt out on Thursday ?

Not the same as a do not call list (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409498)

A do not track list is quite different than a do not call list. The latter is about companies calling you, wasting your time and phone minutes when you're not interested. Gathering demographics doesn't waste your time. Put another way, you have no way of knowing whether the no track list is even being followed, whereas you can easily tell if the do not call list is being followed, because you get annoying calls.

I'm not saying that tracking you on the web isn't offensive, just that it's fundamentally different than calling you specifically and wasting your time, or sending you junk mail. If we're going to address web tracking, why not address all the ways that marketers gather data on people? A big one is stores tracking what you buy, even if you don't use one of their loyalty cards, because they can track based on your credit/debit card number.

No. Just no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409556)

This "opt out" crap is why I deleted my Facebook account.
Make it "opt in" so I don't have to deal with all the BS involved with opting out.

Tech & market driven options better (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409590)

So basically we can opt not to be tracked by the companies who actually decide to follow an optional opt-out list? Doesn't that mean I'm only opting out of the companies I'm least bothered about? Worse, make being a (relative) good-guy even less profitable?

Without legislative backing it's at best toothless and at worst counter-productive.

Even legislative backing may be prone to unintended consequences as companies leave for less regulated shores. However I'd expect there would be more of a positive influence as the field is levelled at least among the US companies, and US websites can be made liable for their advertiser.

On the whole though I think it's best left to a technology driven response to consumer demand. Like say, Ad Block [mozilla.org] , NoScript [mozilla.org] , Ghostery [mozilla.org] , Better Privacy [mozilla.org] ... Admittedly it is a bit of a nuisance that there isn't one that combines the best of these, but at least they're largely opt-in (if using available lists).

More to the point perhaps, if every interweb newbie out there is blocking tracking (where I gather most of the ad-money is derived) then who's going to fund all the websites I'm freeloading on?

AKA the "I have something to hide list" (3, Interesting)

RichMan (8097) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409602)

I suspect this list would also be used be used by various agencies to flag people who are engaged in "undesireable" activity. "Only those with something to hide will be using the Do Not Track" feature.

*sigh*

This all at the same time that they are requiring ISP's to keep 2 year records of IP logs.

So how does this new "Do Not Track" bill merge with the other bill. I presume that everyone will just sign up under the 2 year bill and say "we need to keep records" and are thus exempt from the DoNotTrack feature.

The Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth (SAFETY) Act of 2009 also known as H.R. 1076 and S.436 would require providers of "electronic communication or remote computing services" to "retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user."[22]

Re:AKA the "I have something to hide list" (1)

magus_melchior (262681) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410498)

I suspect this list would also be used be used by various agencies to flag people who are engaged in "undesireable" activity. "Only those with something to hide will be using the Do Not Track" feature.

If that were true, they would be doing it already with the Do Not Call registry. Besides, government agencies like the FBI will use loopholes like tapping at the switchroom rather than at your land line.

protecting your privacy from the government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409610)

Just another ruse in the shape of "privacy". All of the laws do not protect us from the one entity that we should *really* fear with regard to the privacy.... the government.

Re:protecting your privacy from the government (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409940)

And don't think that the government wouldn't use the same mandated mechanism to keep its agents from being tracked when they are investigating you. Then if you notice them doing it, they can arrest you for noticing them.

I don't know what to think (1)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409778)

I don't want to be tracked. Unfortunately i don't like where this is going either. This isn't like a do not call list where you can register a distinct end point and prove that someone called you when you were clearly on the list. The tracking isn't based on a hard identification. It's a fuzzy id. They are trying to aggregate actions made by some checksum built out of whatever info you can get from a client of a web app. How can either side prove that you are or are not that checksum?

What exactly are we proposing? A law stating that you can't save publicly observable data about the users of your site? What goes on the do not track list? How is this enforced? Regular raids that compare data to some master database of browser configurations? That still puts me in the same situation of having to tell some government body what software i'm running at any time. If i'm one of the really paranoid users, i'm probably going to try to obfuscate my signature anyway so when i suspect someone might be tracking me in a non personally identifiable way, how can i prove it.

I'd rather see legislation around what kind of information is required to gain access to my finances. For example: a checksum of browser plugins and my name should not be enough to get a credit card.

You mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34409878)

AdBlock?

Evil bit (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34409938)

This could be just as effective as the evil bit. It seems to be based on the same ideals.

I don't trust the government. (1)

Lilith's Heart-shape (1224784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410316)

How do we know that some reasonably intelligent marketing pusbag won't find a way to use the FTC's "Do Not Track" list in a manner contrary to its stated intent?

Great proposal and should be imposed (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34410356)

I think this is a great proposal as with all tracking tools whether by google, yahoo, doublick, youtube, the list goes on....it is imperative that a) we be accorded a way to avoid being tracked, and b) by doing so will lighten the traffic on the web immensely!!!, as such bandwidth to track what everyone is doing must cost some petabytes in bandwidth for both ISPs and also big tracking cos (like google)

Imagine if google had half their users lock in a flag stating no tracking for me.....they would have much less data to store and
analyze, and also a lot less bandwidth used up....might make the internet much less taxing to surf again.

Only on Wednesday? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34410582)

What about the other days of the week?

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