A Preliminary FTC Staff Report on "Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers" #00044

Submission Number:
00044
Commenter:
Greenwald
State:
New York
Initiative Name:
A Preliminary FTC Staff Report on "Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers"

I would imagine that because Do Not Track List lacks the ability to immediately alert consumers when the list is violated the same way the Do Not Call List does, enforcment would have serious difficulty. The reason the industry has adopted the "opt-out" standard is because consumers have demonstrated a material desire not to exchange personal information for most of the free content on the web. This opaque and usually clandestine "market place" is very inefficient in compensating conumers for the personal information, which clearly has economic value. The only way to truly empower consumers is to require an "opt-in" standard. Then consumers will be faced with a clear and simple choice of whether they want to exchange their information for content. This is unlikely to destroy the economics of the web, but rather make it a more open and trustworthy marketplace. Some consumers, myself included, would often rather pay for content rather than surrender control over identity. Many others would probably not. But at least a clear choice would be provided. It is telling that in the recent Wall Street Journal series "What They Know", the company that is trying to identify devices boasts something akin to an 85% tracking success rate as opposed to the 70something% rate of cookie tracking. What this indicates is a concerted effort by a sizable number of people to go to great inconvienances to try and not be tracked. A simple Opt-In to tracking similar to what Mozilla developers came up with before being pressured to scrap the idea would be a more effective solution that would empower consumers rather than a faith based Do Not Track feature. Any attempt to stop this type of behavior by marketers would have to be complemented by regulation (preferably law) which would not allow marketers to circumvent the spirit of the law and seek ever more devious means to acquire data. All prior forms of media have had success selling advertising based on statistically representative demographic information about users. It is understandable why marketers and advertisers would want as much person specific information as possible, but it is not necessary and completely ignores the desires of at least a material number of consumers. Openness and transparency, the features often trumpeted by internet evangelicals is hypocritically absent in marketing practices, only because consumers have demonstrated a desire to push back. Finally, it is telling that Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, has admitted to having six different personal computers because of security concerns. What are the rest of us who can not afford such extravegance to do Don't use the internet if yopu don't want people to know what you are doing is Mr. Schmidt's response. This in a nutshell sums up the current state of affairs in the internet ecosystem.