Sunday, October 14, 2012

The "Do Not Track" Controversy

The other day I saw this article on Ad Age.  It says that a "coalition of advertising trade associations" called the Digital Advertising Alliance has decided that it's okay to just ignore the "do not track" setting on Internet Explorer 10(If you haven't heard, Microsoft has said that IE10 will have DNT turned on by default).

The reasoning behind this is that, because it was the default setting, it doesn't count as the person's choice.

The big problem here is that they are presuming to know what the users want and taking the control out of their hands.  As a marketer, you never do that.

What you do is figure out what you have to offer, and then offer that to the people who want it.  If you do, in fact, know what people want, that's easy.  If you're a really good salesman, you can convince people that they want what you offer.

But in the end, it's always the consumer's choice.  You can place yourself directly in front of them, but they still have to come to you.

I think that's what unnerves people about online tracking in the first place.  Instead of people seeking out the providers and marketers, those marketers are approaching the customers without being solicited.  It's the same with door-to-door salesmen, telemarketers, or Jehovah's Witnesses.

Now marketers are taking it a step further by taking a choice out of the customers' hands.  They are essentially unchecking that little box for you.

This is not just an inconvenience for people who want to not be tracked.  While it is likely that some of the users don't know or care about the DNT settings, it is also likely that some users were drawn to IE10 because of the default settings.  Those people made a conscious choice in using IE10 and the DAA is ignoring that.

For those people, the freedom of choice has been taken away.  Even if they could make it clear that it's not the default setting, that it is the user-preferred setting, that's requiring them to make the choice again after the first one was ignored.

To me, this marks the line between being convenient and creepy.  When marketers approach customers instead of the other way around, things get creepy and privacy gets violated.  When you start ignoring choices they make, you take away the customer's power.  And when you start making their choices for them, you take away some of their freedom.

People don't usually react kindly to that.

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