I just learned that the FTC is proposing a ‘Do Not Track’ feature that allows consumers to keep their data from marketer’s hands. This proposal seems to entail that it will be an opt-out program. The program is obviously trying to protect the privacy rights of the end user but I think it can come to harm the end user.
Many of the sites that track their user’s browsing habits are free. Well, actually, they are in a freemium basis. That is, users “pay” by giving up data to these services. The service company then takes this information and puts it work in one of many ways. They can use it to deal out better targeted ads or they may go as far as sell the information they have collected to third parties. What may happen is that those who choose to opt-out of a marketer’s tracking methods will have to pay for that service. Of course, some legislator is going to look at this and think it’s just plain wrong for a company to do that. They may even go as far as to pass legislation that forces these companies to look at both types of consumer’s equally.
This would not be economically feasible. There is no free lunch. These services make their money by using their customer’s data and better tailoring ad’s or ad-on (premium) services. On a somewhat related note. I am not sure that I am too worried about my information. Well, I don’t want to sound naive so please take that with a grain of salt. I do care about my data and want it to be well protected. When I allow a service to have my data, I want them to be the only one with that information. However, I am really excited to see what these companies can do with my data. I am reminded of Eric Schmidt’s talk about the future of Google Search. He wants a search that happens before you search. Information sent to you because it was tailored for you. In a sense, they are tapping into your API and manipulating it in such a way that they can use your data to give you a more enjoyable experience. I think as we become more comfortable with these freemium services, proposals like these will be moot.