A Scenic Tour of the Online World

Technology Leads, Privacy Law Follows

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

The New York Times reports that the FTC is launching a new recommendation to create a “privacy cookie” similar to the cookies many retail and other websites use to track visitor preferences and behavior, but with a security profile in a universally readable format informing advertising networks about a user’s privacy preferences.

The Digital Advertising Alliance is hoping to encourage the adoption of an advertising option icon that indicates a website collects data and allows visitors to opt out of the collection process.

Still further proof that technology outpaces privacy (and other) laws, these brand new measures are already moving toward obsolescence as advertising move toward technologies that recognize a web surfer’s device or connection.

It would be nice to think that privacy advocates could outflank the technological innovation path, but it’s simply not going to happen. There’s too much at stake for advertisers and marketers not to innovate, so the sustained pace of change is too fast for privacy advocates to keep up, and not enough transparency for them to get ahead.

As a marketer, we recommend our clients make careful choices about the behavioral marketing they do. A scandal – whether truly damaging or just a black eye – is far more costly than any incremental sales increase you might gain from pushing the privacy envelope. Consider reputation first – bad news travels faster than ever.

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