A coalition of Internet companies including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL, have agreed to support a do-not-track button that will be embedded in most web browsers. This agreement is part of the White House's newly unveiled Online Privacy Bill of Rights.
Targeted online campaigns will likely become harder to implement as a result—under the agreement companies will no longer use data about people’s web browsing habits to customized ads, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Do Not Track has been an issue for the Internet for close to two years.
A Ship That Has Sailed?
Up until now companies such as Google have been resisting this measure but the recent spate of online privacy disclosure violations have left these firms with little room to protest. In addition, consumers that do not want to be tracked have a wealth of tools at their disposal already, such as Do Not Track Plus, a cross-browser and cross-platform that works in Firefox, Chrome, IE, and Safari.
Or Maybe Not?
One of the earliest tools made available was Firefox’s DNT. However, shortly after its release last year Jules Polonetsky, founder of the Future of Privacy Forum think tank, disclosed the surprising news that less than 1% of Firefox 4 users had adopted the option. Polonetsky came up with that figure by doing his own number crunching based on data from two ad networks that he didn't name, via PaidContent.org.
A study by PreferenceCentral sheds some light on one possible driver behind this: Internet users do prefer targeted online ads–however the right context is necessary. They will likely opt for targeted advertising when asked to make real-world, value-for-value trade-offs, such as free access to Internet content. The research also found that attitudes and preferences significantly shift when consumers educated about behavioral targeting or when they are offered ways to control their exposure to these ads.