"Do-Not-Track List" - Protecting your privacy

By Gray Hall - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – If you use the computer, there is a good chance somebody is tracking your habits. The Federal Trade Commission is working to better protect your privacy. It's considering a "Do-Not-Track List" -- similar to the "Do-Not-Call List."

You may know about the Do-Not-Call List -- an option that reduces the number of calls you get from telemarketers. Now, the Federal Trade Commission is recommending a Do-Not-Track List. The goal -- to help protect your privacy while you are on the Internet.

University of Richmond Law Professor, Jim Gibson weighed in on the issue. He says, "If it is technologically possible, it might be a good thing but it comes with it's own privacy problems too I think."

The Do-Not-Track List would prevent Internet marketers from tracking your web browsing habits for targeted advertising. Professor Gibson says while it sounds good -- more work needs to be done before it becomes law.

"We might have to put some kind of unique identifier on each computer and so maybe the cure is worse than the disease, because then the unscrupulous companies can actually use that identifier to figure out even more about you than they already can," he said.

Gibson adds not all tracking is bad. He said consumers actually benefit from some of the sometimes unwanted Ads.

"To some extent, we want them to be able to track what we are doing online because the more they know about us, the more money they can make from presenting certain ads to use and obviously if we are interested in getting content for free on the Internet, it's nice to have that advertising structure to support it," he said.

The Do-Not-Track List is in the initial stages and still has to jump some hurdles before becoming law.

Gibson says, "I think to really have it have a lot of bite, it probably has to be something that goes through Congress and there you run into a lot of problems because a lot of companies make a lot of money from being able to track what people are doing online."

If you would like to chime in on the Do-Not-Track List -- the FTC is taking comments through January 31. Click here for the form. The FTC says the Do-Not-Track List proposal is a response to increasing advances in technology that allow for rapid data collection and sharing that consumers are often unaware of. It says although many companies use privacy polices, they are long and too confusing for consumers.

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