Consumer Watchdog: New online ‘ad option icon’ fails to protect privacy
The self-regulatory privacy program created by online advertisers and implemented Monday fails to adequately protect the privacy of Internet users, according to the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.
Internet marketers use a small data file known as a cookie to track the web history of Internet users and deliver relevant ads. Cookies contain information that is associated with an Internet users web browser, site preferences, web history, and login information.
Members of the Interactive Advertising Bureau are now required to place a small turquoise triangle on their ads — called the Advertising Option Icon — that link to a site that allows Internet users to opt out of being tracked.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau includes of a number of large Internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, that target Internet users with behavioral advertising programs.
But the program still does not notify Internet users before the tracking begins and will only effect those who notice the obscure icon and click on it. Additionally, it does not prevent companies participating in the program from collecting the information and using it for purposes other than targeted advertising. The program doesn’t include ads on mobile devices, like iPhones.
“Consumers have no more control today than they did yesterday over whether their information is tracked and collected by companies online,” said Carmen Balber, Washington director for Consumer Watchdog. “This industry program is another example of the failure of self-regulation to protect consumers from unwanted monitoring of every move they make on the internet and their mobile devices.”
“Action by Congress and the FTC to require a ‘Do Not Track Me’ option is crucial for consumers to gain control over their own information.”
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced the H.R. 654, The Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011, in February. The legislation was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.
“Signing on to the Internet shouldn’t mean signing away your privacy,” Christopher Calabrese, ACLU Legislative Counsel, said. “Americans must have a mechanism in place to opt out of having their online habits tracked so that they can protect their most sensitive information.”