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FTC Commissioner: Concepts to ‘Do Not Track’ Have Not Been Properly Vetted

In recent days, there has been a lot of articles reporting “Do Not Track” — some of those articles have even implied that the FTC has endorsed particular do-not-track mechanisms. FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch said to AdAge, that “The concept of do not track hasn’t been endorsed by the commission or, in my judgment, even properly vetted yet.”

Rosch gave some insight into the difficulty of implementing a Do Not Track registry or plugin .and why the commission is taking its time before making any permanent decision.

“Consumers may also lose the free content they’ve taken for granted. Not only could consumers potentially lose access to free content on specific websites, I fear that the aggregate effect of widespread adoption by consumers of overly broad do-not-track mechanisms might be the reduction of free content, free apps and innovation across the entire internet economy. Beyond that, consumers may forgo the reported ability to earn commissions from “selling” the right to track their behavior or allow the use of their personal info.”

Rosch outline four areas he was concerned:

Rosch outline four areas he was concerned could be impacted adversely if the no tracking issue was not dealt with from a knowledgeable perspective.

  1. Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., at a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee earlier this month had stated the No Track Registry could create a situation where access to info on the web could cost users as the info from tracking is needed for efficiencies that if lost would be replaced by pay models.
  2. Consumer confusion over what tracking is and “Some tracking, for purposes unrelated to behavioral advertising, may always occur. When consumers are offered a do-not-track option, they may misunderstand the limited scope of that choice; and, in some instances, calling a mechanism “do not track” could arguably be deceptive.”
  3. The “recent rush to adopt untested do-not-track mechanisms might be based, in part, on a reluctance to take on the harder task of examining more-nuanced methods of providing consumers with choice. It’s always easier to just say “no” with a blunt instrument, rather than to take the time and effort to consider all of the ramifications of the different alternatives.”
  4. And what looks to be a shot across the bow of Google and Microsoft – ” the implementation of do-not-track mechanisms mustn’t jeopardize competition by injuring potential competitors. I am concerned that some firms with a monopoly or near-monopoly on a relevant market may use do-not-track mechanisms to cripple competitors from constraining their power.

More specifically, the browser market is heavily concentrated. Most — though not all — firms in the browser market operate for profit and those firms monetize some of their other businesses by advertising. There’s nothing wrong with that as such. But we need to know: 1.) whether any of those firms enjoy monopoly or near-monopoly power in any online advertising market; 2.) whether there’s any difference between the advertising in which those firms are invested (including the various kinds and combinations) and the advertising portfolio of competitors that may make the latter more vulnerable in the event do-not-track mechanisms are installed; and 3.) whether there’s any other way that a firm that dominates the market may be able to disadvantage a rival if do-not-track mechanisms are adopted.”

[Via: AdAge]

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