Saturday, March 17, 2012

Will "do not track" present an existential test of social networking companies' business models?

John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) have introduced a “Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights of 2011”,  S. 799, text here, or govtrack here

In the meantime, W3C has established a “Tracking Protection Working Group”, here

Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a piece by Mark M. Jaycox and Rainey Reitman, offers a piece “Facebook’s (In)conspicuous absence from Do Not Track discussions”, link here

My own experience is that the “instant personalization” of my Facebook page, which of course depends on tracking, is somewhat effective.  Sometimes I do get important news items that I had not noticed in newspapers, had not been covered in major media, or on my email accounts.  (AOL depends not on tracking but on the Huffington Post to deliver news, and it is pretty effective.)

Again, these companies depend somewhat on tracking to earn enough ad revenue to support their business models and have the ability to host user-generated content.  

We used to say something like that about network TV, which depended on commercials to be “free”.  But in those days, the only way you got tracked was if you signed up for a Nielsen ratings survey.  By the way, I’ve been approached to let Nielsen track me on the web (a few years ago), and it tended to mess up my machine.  Not worth the $15 a month payment. 

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