Today the Obama administration unveiled its online-privacy initiative, which it calls a "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights." A huge part of the potential success of this initiative is the compliance of over 400 advertisers, represented by the Digital Advertising Alliance, with Do Not Track.
Do Not Track (DNT) is "a technology and policy proposal that enables users to opt out of tracking by websites they do not visit, including analytics services, advertising networks, and social platforms." DNT tools are already present in the current versions of the Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers as an option; Google plans to add them to its Chrome browser by the end of this year; and reportedly, Apple is working on incorporating DNT tools into Safari.
But as we've reported, few consumers have been using these tools. One reason may be that although DNT tools have let advertisers know consumers don't wish to be tracked, advertisers had no compelling reason to respect those wishes. That has changed today. From a White House statement on today's press conference:
Companies that represent the delivery of nearly 90 percent of online behavioral advertisements, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL have agreed to comply when consumers choose to control online tracking. Companies that make this commitment will be subject to FTC enforcement.
Consumer Reports privacy expert Jeff Fox said, "Now, Do Not Track will actually mean something. For DNT to work, there has to be some assurance that advertisers are abiding by it."
Do Not Track is not a cure-all for the issue of online-advertiser tracking, though: See our earlier post, " Two ways that Do Not Track won't protect your privacy."