This is the question on the minds of many marketers and SEOs in the United States. Their Federal Trade Commission has proposed a Do Not Track mechanism to be included under the Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act, which is under consideration in the US Senate. Similar to the Do Not Call list, which puts a stop to telemarketers contacting those on the opt-out list, the Do Not Track list would give consumers a way to universally disallow tracking of their online activities.
California state senator Alan Lowenthal has introduced a similar bill there, saying, “We will lead and provide stimulus to the rest of the nation. It’s much more difficult to get something like this through Washington.” Both proposals would affect entities that collect or store user information, such as websites accessed, time of visits, geo-location, and the type of browsers used to view the sites.
A similar bill is being floated around the House of Representatives. Rep. Jackie Speier, of California, says, “People have a right to surf the web without Big Brother watching their every move and announcing it to the world. The Internet marketplace has matured, and it is time for consumers’ protections to keep pace.”
Many opponents of these bills are not opposed to consumer rights – the industry as a whole is moving towards self-monitoring. Apple, for instance, added Do Not Track features to its Safari browser. Microsoft and Mozilla have already done this, as has Google Chrome with the “Keep My Opt Outs” feature. While consumer protection is essential, many argue that online tracking actually facilitates a better experience for consumers because the industry goes where the customers go.
Online tracking is an essential tool of marketers; we are seeing more and more targeted ads on sites like Facebook. Would this proposal, if made law, prevent advertisers from using non-personally identifying information to determine which ads will resonate with which users?
Most Internet users do not opt out of tracking, which can be done through various browsers. Most experts expect that the impact of such a law would not have a catastrophic effect on online marketing. Advertisers may end up incorporating other factors into their ad choices. Instead of using hard statistics, they will be able to focus on trends, relevant samples, and develop other measures that tell them what they need to do.
Like every change that comes down the SEO/online marketing road, this one, too, will be met with ingenuity. You can’t keep a good marketer down. New methods will be developed should the Do Not Track proposal become law and limit tracking information.