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Do Not Track List
Privacy groups say it's time for consumer protections
by Karl Bode 12:47PM Wednesday Oct 31 2007
Consumer advocate groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, the World Privacy Forum and the Center for Democracy and Technology, today collectively called for a "do not track list" intended to protect consumers from having their online activities unknowingly tracked, stored and used by marketers and advertising networks. From their press release:
Across an ever-growing array of electronic devices, from the Internet to mobile devices and beyond, consumers leave behind a vast amount of behavioral information that is being tracked and targeted without their knowledge. This "behavioral tracking" -- the practice of collecting and compiling a record of individual consumers' activities, interests, preferences, and/or communications over time -- places consumers' privacy at risk, and is not covered by federal law.
"If you look back at the Do Not Call list, it was at one time managed by industry. But it didn’t gain widespread acceptance until the FTC took it over," says Pam Dixon, Executive Director of the World Privacy Forum. Dixon says the industry has been allowed to self-regulate for years and has failed, and tougher measures are needed.

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In addition to a plethora of marketing and advertising relationships, the majority of ISPs sell your semi-anonymous website visitation records to outfits like Compete. It's estimated that they make about $5 per user monthly from selling your clickstream data. No ISPs admit to the practice.

A letter (pdf) to the FTC outlines the specifics of how such a list would operate. In addition to taking control of a new list, the groups would like the FTC to force marketers and ISPs to make their activities clear to consumers and avoid burying their privacy practices in fine print. The privacy ball is in the FTC's court.

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