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Google, Facebook To Bypass ‘Do Not Track’ Requests

Monday, January 26th, 2015

If the recent media reports are to be believed, major tech companies, including Google and Facebook; are planning to dump the ‘Do Not Track’ feature in the near future. The feature, which was introduced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2010 and was devised along the same lines as telemarketing’s “Do Not Call” rule, provides a simple way for the internet users to let service providers know that they do not wish their browsing activities to be tracked. The great thing about the rule is that it can be enabled through a simple setting found in most modern browsers and doesn’t need to be activated for each and every website that the user wants to visit.

When the ‘Do Not Track’ rule was first proposed, a lot of tech companies as well as online advertising platforms were open to its implementation. However, in the ensuing period, several differences have cropped up regarding the scope, method of implementation and even the precise definition of the feature. Now, an industry group is planning to bring out detailed rules regarding how the feature should be implemented. While the group consists of a mix of industry experts and representatives from tech organizations, most of its members are from companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo.

Since the group has a big representation from the tech side, it is expected to recommend something that would favor the tech giants. If the tech representatives have their way, big companies may be exempted from following the rule and would be free to collect user data as they have been doing all along. This would also give them a free run to collect personal data not only from visitors who visit their website but from other sites via plugins and other specialized tools. If the proposed recommendations are adopted by the FTC, it would be the end of the ‘Do Not Track’ feature as we know it.

While there could be a number of theories explaining why the tech companies have resisted the implementation of the ‘Do Not Track’ rule as desired by the FTC, the fundamental reason behind its failure is not that hard to comprehend. Unlike other mediums of marketing, there is a direct correlation between user data and revenues in the online world. If online companies are prevented from collecting user data, they would see a significant drop in their bottom lines. However, the authorities, including the FTC, have failed to understand this simple business model or the fact that online companies provide free access to their services in exchange for user data.

From the recent developments, it is evident that the ‘Do Not Track’ feature needs a major overhaul to survive in the long run. The FTC needs to understand the concerns of the tech industry before proposing solutions for safeguarding the privacy of the users. If the government and tech industry do not see eye to eye on how the user data of online users should be handled, no solution is going to be effective.

January 26, 2015

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