Readers Weigh In: Are Federal 'Do Not Track' Rules Needed?

Weighing in on the debate between Interactive Advertising Bureau's Michael Zaneis and FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

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The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Michael Zaneis argued that “Do Not Track” rules would harm e-commerce; Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz said they would help consumers. Your thoughts:

Shouldn’t individuals have the option to opt out of online behavioral tracking, just as they can opt out of hard-copy mailings and phone calls? If the advertising industry wants to continue to track people online, there should be something in it for the people. The “benefit” of targeted, personal ads isn’t truly a benefit to us—the advertisers paint it that way, but who really wants to be bombarded with ads, personal or not? As it stands, behavioral tracking is one-sided: It’s a massive benefit to the advertisers and a hindrance to the users.

SARAH PARADISI Cambridge, Mass.

These rules are absolutely needed. Mr. Zaneis’s position is so self-serving as to be laughable. He states, “Stop that sharing and you put a stop to the Internet as we know it.” The Internet we have needs radical reform that not only stops tracking, but also requires all websites to stop sharing any information with anyone, including affiliates. I am very tired of businesses being able to tell me what I cannot stop where sharing is concerned and what piddly, meager information sharing I can stop. When is this country going to get the guts needed to reverse the rules and tell business to not share anything with anyone, be it affiliates, third parties, or anyone else, unless the customer gives explicit permission for each party involved? I do not care how business is inconvenienced, the cost burden, or how many people may become unemployed. The interactive ad industry can claim it supports consumer privacy, but it requires consumers to take steps to try to stop tracking. Some tracking cannot be stopped; it depends on what the websites and companies decide they want to allow the consumer to stop. Web tracking and information sharing are both dirty, low-life business practices.

GERALD GIBSON Spring, Texas

I would not appreciate having my daily activities tracked, and I see no reason why my Web meanderings should be any different. Advertisers have a very solid idea who visits ESPN online, and they can target their ads appropriately. If I step out of character and shop for a vacuum cleaner, I can use Google to find relevant sites, and I don’t need any tracking mechanisms to direct me to sources of vacuum cleaners.

PHILIP NAMY Spartanburg, S.C.

With Google as one of its largest competitors, [adding a “do not track” feature to its Web browser] is a strong strategic move on Microsoft’s part. As [Microsoft] has a large portion of the Internet browser market, I see this as a retaliatory movement against Google, which is now coming close to releasing Chrome operating system.

DAVID T. ELLIS Binghamton, N.Y.

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