This is the summary of an article by Sarah Downey, which discusses the falseness of the claim of some advertisers who say that the Internet exists primarily because of tracking-based ad funds. Furthermore, the authors call for a conservation to tackle the far-reaching, daily and mostly invisible collection of user personal data, but that they are not necessarily against online advertising. Here’s the link to the original behavioral targeting article: The free internet will be just fine with Do Not Track. Here’s Why.
Despite claims that the implementation of the Do Not Track policy would kill the free Internet, this is simply not true. Although advertisers say that online content exists because it is funded by tracked-based ads, this statement is not exactly accurate.
In fact, based on figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau or IAB, only 15% or $4.9 billion of the total $31.7 billion gained by the online ad industry in 2011 comes from online behavioral advertising or OBA.
Facts about Do Not Track
Furthermore, the effect of the policy on the ad industry is not that big when the following facts are taken into consideration:
1. The Do Not Track signal from a user’s browser is not always interpreted by most advertisers as a means to stop gathering data. The fact is, unless one is using a more advanced tool like the Do Not Track Plus, advertisers are still gathering data for whatever purposes it may serve them, even if a user opts not to be targeted with ads.
2. Not everyone will make use of Do Not Track. While there are people who would definitely opt not to be tracked, there are others who would not mind being tracked at all. Still, there are others who might want to use the option but find it hard to locate the settings for Do Not Track.
3. Majority of Web sites do not respond to Do Not Track requests. On the part of the Web site, responding to a user’s request to not be tracked is completely voluntary. Hence, they are not at all obliged to respond unless they truly agree to do so. Notably, the social network Twitter supports the Do Not Track policy.
4. Majority of targeted advertising revenues do not end up with content publishers and providers. According to the ACLU, 80% of earnings made through targeted ads are actually used in improving advertising practices.
Based on these facts, it can be deduced that the Do Not Track proposal will not “kill” the Free Internet, since targeted ads comprise only a minor part in online advertising profits. In addition, the online advertising industry is flourishing, as noted by a 530% increase in revenues between the years 2001 and 2002 alone.
Hence, even if majority or 68% of Internet users do not like to be tracked and targeted online, their choice to opt out of tracking would not really make a dent on advertising profits.
Indeed, today more and more people – from US to Europe and all over the world – are becoming concerned about privacy and tracking issues. This is why regulatory proposals such as the Do Not Track are being discussed and put into action.
Still, there is a need for a continuous dialogue about tracking in general. The question of whether an ad is truly invasive or not is also of great importance.
Contextual advertising, for instance, is not necessarily invasive; e.g. the placement of ESPN advertisements on places where sports fans are most likely to see them is not exactly an invasion or personal privacy. In sum, more discussions about these matters must be done.