Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Do Not Track List?

Yesterday’s New York Times article and subsequent banter regarding heightened privacy concerns over Web analytics monitoring indicated that nine groups have petitioned the FTC to implement “Do Not Track” (DNT) lists. What ever happened to deleting cookies? Wait, what about simply blocking sites from dropping a cookie with your Web browser? But I question what these nine groups are so worried about anyway. The benefits of Web analytics tracking are widely appreciated by consumers, yet the collection process gives them the creeps. What’s that…You want your cake and would like to eat it too?

For all those groups wanting DNT lists, do you also take offense when your local shopkeeper greets you by name and asks if you would like “the usual”? Or informs you that the blueberry muffins just came out of the oven and are still warm? Do you scour when your local bank teller welcomes you back by name and asks if you’re having a good day? I don’t know about you, but I visit my local bank’s Web site 10-times more frequently than I walk into a branch. If the site is able to make my life easier by anticipating my needs and providing relevant offers for me, which in turn saves me time, I say bring it on. I can still choose to ignore it if I like, but thanks for keeping it relevant. Further, I have my bank Web site, news sites, weather info and frequently visited pages all customized the way I like them. I can consume information faster and more efficiently than ever before thanks to analytics tracking. And just maybe those ads served with some semblance of my interests will alert me to something that I wasn’t aware of previously.

We live in a society where advertising is a constant droll in the background. You can tune in if you like or allow it to fade to white noise. In my experience, I tune in when something is relevant to me and that’s good for advertising. There are plenty of online habits that foster and even encourage dubious privacy practices (think Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, etc), behavioral targeting isn’t going to ruin the Internet. I posted in jest “Should I be Worried” because Google knows too much about me. But until the privacy can-o-worms is opened through some sort of “Digital Chernobyl”, whereby an individual is denied service, rights, or entitlement due to his/her Internet habits, I think we’re all safe for the moment.

PS> Your visit to this site was tracked, aggregated, recorded and preserved for all time using Web analytics software ;)

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