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In the ongoing argument about whether the government should pass laws to prohibit companies from tracking Internets users' browsing habits, one voice has been conspicuously absent -- the voice of actual Internet users. Both the government agencies and public advocacy groups that have been pushing for the tracking ban claim to be acting in the interest of average users. To this point, however, I haven't seen much evidence that either of these entities has actually asked Internet users if they feel the need to be protected from online tracking technology.
It seems there is a general consensus against tracking user Internet behavior. My own belief is that this is a knee-jerk reaction secondary to lack of understanding. There is only one reason to target marketing efforts: to provide consumers with advertising that is pertinent. It is not to find out what you are doing, to spy, or to report to some secretive agency what you are up to. The alternative to advertising on the Web is to pay for content, a choice no doubt these self-same complainants would find even less savory. Someone has to pay the bills, and when consumers discover they are the ones to do so, they will be screaming to bring back tracking.
Comment: Harris Polls has been tracking what respondents think about being tracked on the Web with a question included in every poll (at least the ones I receive) for years. It would be nice to see how those results have changed over time.
Second, a question or two. It appears to me that any 'Do Not Track' list would be doomed to be useless. Any plan requiring active participation by the 'trackers' would just be ignored or subverted by the very folks most of us would object to tracking us.
What are the prospects of a 'user controlled' tracking blocker?
1) For example, what would be the net result (no pun intended) of requiring every ISP to default to anonymous browsing with an opt-in for tracking? In other words 'NinjaProxy' for the common user.
I recognize that most (all?) current browsers offer anonymous browsing, but understand there are limitations to just how anonymous you really are. Some of the descriptions / explanations make it sound like you only cease storing your history so your wife and kids don't dig out your porn preferences, but any of the sites you visit can track away to see if you prefer blonds or brunettes.
I would really appreciate some comments on this subject from those of you technically competent web/internet folk.