The idea, known as “Do Not Track,” and modeled on the popular “Do Not Call” rule that protects consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls, is simple. But the details are anything but.
Although many digital advertising companies agreed to the idea in principle, the debate over the definition, scope and application of “Do Not Track” has been raging for several years.
Now, finally, an industry working group is expected to propose detailed rules governing how the privacy switch should work. The group includes experts but is dominated by Internet giants like Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google and Yahoo. It is poised to recommend a carve-out that would effectively free them from honoring “Do Not Track” requests.
If regulators go along, the rules would allow the largest Internet giants to continue scooping up data about users on their own sites and on other sites that include their plug-ins, such as Facebook’s “Like” button or an embedded YouTube video. This giant loophole would make “Do Not Track” meaningless.
How did we get into this mess? For starters, the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t seem to fully understand the nature of the Internet.