US online tracking block threatens web ads

A US Federal Trade Commission proposal to make an online do-not-track tool universal has been slammed as a threat to internet advertising.

The Commission came out in favour of a tool to prevent the tracking of online use in a report this week. There is currently no such tool available.

However, the consumer protection subcommittee of the US House of representatives heard evidence from Republican representative Ed Whitfield on Thursday that the move would make targeted advertising less effective and slow the growth of e-commerce.

Whitfield questioned whether online advertising “would be sustainable in the absence of marketers’ ability to track.”

The Federal Trade Commission said the government should legislate if the online industry did not make a no-track tool available.

David Vladeck, director of the trade commission bureau consumer protection, argued many consumers believe they can out of tracking when in fact they are opting out of receiving targeted ads.

Consumer Federation of America director Susan Grant said: “If someone were following you around in the physical world – tailing you and making notes of everywhere you go, what you read, what you see, what you buy – you might find this disturbing. The argument that ‘We don’t know your name’ might not assuage your concerns about being stalked.”

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