Consumer Watchdog, a privacy advocacy group, has developed a 15-second spot that is running on a 540-square foot digital billboard in Times Square, twice an hour, for the next 45 days. The spot promotes a longer video the group produced. Both videos are controversial - and designed to push the cause the group is currently promoting, namely Do Not Track legislation.
"We're satirizing Schmidt in the most highly trafficked public square in the nation to make the public aware of how out of touch Schmidt and Google are when it comes to our privacy rights," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. "America needs a 'Do Not Track Me' list and Google is Exhibit A in the case for it."
Titled "Don't Be Evil?" the avatar-style animation features Schmidt driving an ice cream truck and secretly spying on children.
Upcoming Legislative Agenda
Do Not Track legislation would be similar to the national Do Not Call registry, allowing consumers to opt out of having their web activities tracked for advertising purposes. It is a concept that has gained surprising momentum - surprising, given the gridlock that otherwise exists on Capitol Hill - and could well be proposed as legislation in the upcoming session. House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee ChairmanRick Boucher, D-Va., and Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection Subcommittee ChairmanBobby Rush, D-Ill., are working on privacy legislation that they hope to have ready for for the next Congress. The Do Not Call list would likely be included.
Then there is the Federal Trade Commission. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told a Senate panel that the commission is exploring the idea as well (via Nextgov). The opt-out process could be run by the FTC or some private sector entity, he suggested.
80% Approve of Do Not Track
These ideas have the backing of a majority of Americans, at least according to a poll commissioned by Consumer Watchdog. Conducted by Grove Insight [pdf] in July, the poll found that 80% of Americans surveyed support a 'Do Not Track Me' list and 90% said that it is important to "have more laws that protect privacy of your personal information" online.
It is a subject many marketers are watching - and in some cases, making contingency plans. Lori Rosen, managing partner for the US at Blacksocks.com, a men's clothing e-retailer, said the site would allocate more resources to other marketing mediums, such as partnerships, PR, search marketing and social media, if the proposal does become law. (via DM News). "This whole discussion is a moving target, as online marketing becomes more and more sophisticated. When you regulate one area, another opportunity opens, so the issue will never be fully resolved."