According to the AFP newswire, the Federal Trade Commission is currently looking into whether it should create a “Do Not Track” order for websites that operate in the United States. Such an order would be analogous to the “Do Not Call” order the agency implemented to force telemarketers to cease cold calling prospective customers. Despite good intentions, others such as PC World are denouncing the move as a detriment to free enterprise on the Internet.
The idea is simple, though the ramifications of implementing it may not be. A “Do Not Track” order would mean that all websites that operate within the Jurisdiction of the United States would be forced to add an option upon visiting a site, to disallow tracking or collection of user information, either through cookies placed on the computer, or through the direct collection via information provided to the site directly. If a user chose the Do Not Track option, then the website would be forbidden to use any of the information from the user or from selling it to anyone else. If they user did not choose such an option, then the web site would be free to continue to operate as it does now.
One of the main problems of such a system PC World points out, is that it would be very nearly impossible to police. It might be easier if such tracking queries only applied to sites that sold things, but by including it for any site that pops up, which would include news, blogs, temporary and virtually any other site, there exists the problem of enforcing a policy on millions of sites. The other problem, they say, is that if web sites are forced to not collect information on users, then the usefulness of the Internet as an ongoing concern would fall to such a low as to become irrelevant.
Lawmakers on the other hand, as reported by the Newswire, insist that merchants have taken things too far and are now infringing on users rights to privacy. They say that something needs to be put in place to stop sites from collecting information from visitors that they don’t even know is being taken. Also, they point out how some sites have even resorted to tracking users as they move on to other sites, a very clear invasion of privacy if ever there was one.
Thus far, the FTC has voted to recommend that the “Do not Track” option be put in place to its own governing body, the next step is to create a working committee to gather evidence which the commission says will be presented and then voted on for final approval sometime this year.