Today, the Senate Commerce Committee is hearing testimony on the Do Not Track testimony. “The Need for Privacy Protections: Is Industry Self-Regulation Adequate?” hearing will hear testimony on the current state of industry self-regulation in providing Internet users with the proper tools to protect their personal information.
At issue in the hearing is whether websites comply in respecting Internet users’ wishes not to have their browsing data tracked then used in targeted ads.
“In our prior hearing on consumer privacy, both the Obama Administration and the FTC commended recent industry efforts to provide consumers with more privacy protections,” said Chairman John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV in the hearing announcement. “However, their reports also stated that industry can do more and that federal legislation is necessary. In this follow-up hearing, I intend to closely examine how industry intends to fulfill its recent pledge to not collect consumers’ personal information when they utilize the self-regulatory ad icon or make “do-not-track” requests in their web browsers.”
As I noted in an October article, we are seeing more and more tracking because it sells. But, as the ACLU has observed with web browser tracking, “Should anyone have the right to know and sell to others the fact that you are overweight, or depressed , or gay?”
EFF observes that “Do Not Track is not yet a finalized standard, the current standard in place is a list of ‘principles‘ created by the Digital Advertising Alliance, the latest self-regulatory organization for online behavioral advertising.”
The EFF elaborates:
If you connect to a first party website like ESPN.com, affiliated companies like Disney.com (ESPN’s parent company is The Walt Disney Company), and completely unrelated data brokers, are still able to obtain large amounts of data about you and your viewing habits. Such low standards would not offer protection against non-consensual collection of people’s reading habits or against companies like Google that have been caught circumventing the privacy settings of users. In fact, the DAA principles would be more accurately titled “Do Not Target,” or “Pretend Not To Track,” than “Do Not Track.”
It’s worth noting that Microsoft’s latest version of Internet Explorer is shipping with Do Not Track, while Firefox, Safari and Opera already have the standard built into their browsers. Google’s Chrome browser, on the other hand, is by default not set to Do Not Track. Mozilla, incidentally, is testifying at the Senate committee hearing.