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Online Tracking Firms To Launch Opt-Out Program 102

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
storagedude writes "Threatened by the prospect of tougher US online privacy legislation, a handful of data collection companies have banded together to create a voluntary system for consumers to see what information companies have and to opt out of cookies or edit the data collected. The Better Advertising Project's Open Data Partnership is a long way from a viable solution — scores of tracking and big-name online companies have yet to sign on to the effort — but it is nonetheless the first attempt to put all this online tracking data in one place. Coupled with Microsoft's announcement this week that it plans to add a do-not-track mechanism to IE9, it appears that the FTC's call for a do-not-track system may be gaining some traction. The Open Data Partnership will be particularly interesting, as consumers will be getting a good look at the data collected about them. Better Advertising already lets consumers opt out of some behavioral ad targeting, and about 5% of those who click through to learn more actually opt out (PDF, slide 5). It will be interesting to see if the opt-out rate changes after consumers see what data is actually collected." To be clear, they aren't saying they'll stop collecting the data. They'll just make it available to users and let people opt out of getting ads based on the information, or simply remove anything they don't want shared.
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Online Tracking Firms To Launch Opt-Out Program

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  • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:20PM (#34526678)
    Could that be becuase more people (as in, not us nerds here) don't even know that they are being tracked like crazy or what it can mean to them in the long term when all those little tiny bits of data start getting put together and someone ends up with a perfect picture of that person?
    • by KiloByte (825081) on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:31PM (#34526722)

      And those of us who do know about tracking have long since learned that any attempts to opt out actually result in more tracking/advertising/spam/whatever else you opt out.

      Unless the perpetrators are actually trackable and reliably fined, there is no chance an opt-out system can work. The only case so far that _mostly_ (not completely) works is the Do-Not-Call phone list in the US. Here in Europe we have strict laws about protecting personal data, but unless a company loudly announces it has data of this kind these laws are unenforceable.

      • by martin-boundary (547041) on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:50PM (#34526828)

        but unless a company loudly announces it has data of this kind these laws are unenforceable.

        However, employees of such companies might want to consider leaking this information to the public, so that the company can be taken to court for failing to follow the laws.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Been there, done that.... the good thing is that I use throwaway e-amail addresses provided by my webmail host, so I know what site is responsible for my 200 spam/day emails. I don't think the law will accomplish anything, but at least I can delete the temp email and have the mails bounce when I'm done with them. The wild, wild west got nothing on spam email, it's so lawless that only like the top 5 in the world has the chance of getting token caught.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If the opt-out is just a browser setting then there would be no personally identifiable information like there is with the telephone Do Not Call list.

      • You can do it the easy way, or the hard way, your choice.

        Applies to all sorts of things that have "opt out" options that involve giving up our rights.

      • I think it's worse than that. Setting up a do-not-track system while browsers still make the information available is like setting up a do-not-hack system instead of patching security holes. The perpetrators will simply move shop to a workable jurisdiction and continue tracking.

        These problems should be fixed in the browser:

        http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1898834&cid=34472828 [slashdot.org]

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:54PM (#34526846)

      Add the people who don't even think that it will be heeded and is hence a waste of time to go through the hassle to opt-out, and the people who think it's a trap to collect even more data, and I'm kinda surprised that 5% actually remain to opt-out.

      • by morethanapapercert (749527) on Saturday December 11, 2010 @10:25PM (#34526966)
        Put me down as one of the people who fall into both categories. I know that my opt-out won't be heeded. (I may be wrong, but I'm certain)

        Actual laws against spam don't seem to have diminished the number of spam messages I get. I've actually taken the time to try and opt out of some the less annoying, slightly more legitimate emails and I've noticed something interesting that seems to be common to all of the opt-out pages I have seen.

        A) If/when you sign up for something, you are implicitly agreeing to having your contact details and other information shared/sold to "business partners, service providers and other affiliates" but when you opt-out later, it applies only to the company directly. You'll still get spammed by those other firms.

        B) They NEVER say that they will delete your data, just that they won't use it themselves. On it's own, your data is almost worthless, but in the aggregate with thousands of other people with similar profiles it can be worth quite a sum. So opting out still leaves the problem of companies unknown to me, collecting data about me against my will and then selling that data to god-knows-who anywhere in the world. (It's been alleged that intelligence agencies routinely obtain these data stores to cross reference against their existing files.) By the time you get around to opting out, your data could easily have been sold and re-sold dozens of times.

        C)The fact that I am willing to actually read the Terms and chose to opt-out is itself another detail to add and cross reference with any other data that they have; or think they have, linked to me. A list composed purely of people who opt-out of (for example) the email alerts that they automatically got subscribed to when they joined a tech forum is probably pretty worthless for a fake Viagra spammer, but potentially worthwhile for a vendor of security and privacy protecting software. (oh the irony!)

        • Except this one is actually worse. The gist of it is: oh, we'll continue to track you all right, but we'll give you more ads you're not interested in. I.e., it's not even a fucking opt out of being tracked or the ads, it's accepting to still be tracked but forfeit the meager rewards of occasionally getting an interesting ad out of it. As opposed to, dunno, your point B, it doesn't even say "ok, ok, we'll stop collecting your data, but keep the old one." It flat out tells you "hell, yeah, we'll keep collecti

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      Opt out rates are low eh?

      I think it's just so special of them to consider launching this opt-out program. They're willing to let us opt out of having our personal behavior monitored. They must really care about us.

      I guess it's just too much to ask to have them create an opt-in program and make "out" the default and allow us to choose whether or not we want someone looking over our shoulder.

      I know that the pioneers of the Internet believed that their invention would create an new era of communication and p

    • I dunno, it's easy to jump to conclusions, but given where the data comes from, it's a bit like trusting the telemarketers that only 5% of people are bothered by repeated calls at dinner time.

      And it's especially the combination that makes me wonder. I'd assume that if people just didn't give a fuck, they wouldn't have clicked to learn more in the first place. I mean, I don't go click on penis enlargement pill adds just to change my mind later. If I'm not interested, I don't click at all.

      That only 5% of thos

    • Actually, after reading their powerpoint slide, the mentioned stats on page 5 actually say:

      Overall click through rate: 0.0035%

      Which is actually what you'd expect for something where you have to click an icon _inside_ an ad to even get to their opt-out site. Especially an icon that says "Advertising Choices" instead of something clearer like, say, "Opt Out Of Ads." Not that that would make it much better, since we all learned anyway to not click on spammers' opt out links and that they typically lead to some

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:26PM (#34526698)

    While the Open Data Partnership is a start, there are scores of online tracking and major internet companies that have yet to sign on to the effort.

    That's where legislation comes in - you can't get 100% compliance without it. All you need is just one company to refuse to join and this opt-out program will fall apart.

    Anyway, opt-out?!? Everything is becoming fucking opt-out. And if you don't know about something, how the fuck do you "opt-out:?

    Fucking marketing people and their techie sell-out scumbags.

    • Fucking marketing people and their techie sell-out scumbags.

      That describes almost everyone in IT.

      • Yeah most of us empower marketing to some extent, if you do anything web-related it's pretty much unavoidable :-( Makes me feel like shit sometimes...

        I met a guy who did VoIP admin at a telemarketing firm, I guess you need a strong black hat mentality (and pay to match) to be able to live with yourself at a job like that...

    • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmail. c o m> on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:46PM (#34526804) Homepage

      In Canada we call it the privacy act. Works pretty well, unless you're dealing with a company outside of Canada. In which case as a Canadian you simply ignore everything they scream at you.

    • That's where legislation comes in - you can't get 100% compliance without it.

      Exactly. Some industries may be able to avoid legislation by the nature of how the product is bought and sold. Movies and video games, for instance, with their voluntary ratings system, already pervade the market because people expect to see those ratings before they buy the product.

      But with advertising, people aren't the consumers - they're the product. It doesn't matter if people expect to see limits on behavior tracking, because they're not the ones whose needs have to be met. In fact, the actual con

    • I opt-out by blocking. If they can't see me, what data do they get? Okay, yeah, I'm a geek and can do that, whereas the other 95% of people (or more) wouldn't know how to, though they might stumble upon one of the good block lists floating around and remove themselves that way. If not ... well, as long as they can track 80% of the people, they probably don't care about us.

      Having previously worked for a newspaper, I know about some of the holes in "Do Not Call". "Do not track"? Since you can't prove they are

  • Why opt out? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:31PM (#34526720)

    Why should users have to opt out? It would make more sense to make tracking opt in. If tracking is useful for users surely they'd want to opt in.

    • Re:Why opt out? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:45PM (#34526794)

      Over the years I've had enough contact with the online marketing business to last me a lifetime. *puke*

      It's partially rooted in their delusion that they actually think they're doing the average user a service by trying to sell him all kinds of crap (read: "the customer has needs and online advertisement facilitates the contact to vendors to satisfy this need"[/goodspeak]).

      That's why they want the opt-in as default, to reach as many people as possible and guarantee them a larger revenue through possible sales.

      • Re:Why opt out? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by martin-boundary (547041) on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:54PM (#34526840)

        their delusion that they actually think they're doing the average user a service by trying to sell him all kinds of crap

        It's hard to convince someone that what they're doing is wrong, when their job depends on it.

      • I'd say only about half of the marketing people I've met have this Randian mindset where they think they're actually helping people by exploiting them. The other half have more of a black hat/predatory mindset where they know they're hurting others to help themselves, and just don't give a fuck. One guy went on a rant about how "Generation Y has the attention span of a gnat" and how hard it is to get them to sit still and watch his ads. I wanted to scream out "BECAUSE WE DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR STUPID

  • No silly - Opt in! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by defaria (741527) <Andrew@DeFaria.com> on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:40PM (#34526772) Homepage

    No ad system will ever be acceptable to me unless it's "Opt In"!

    Look, I'm internet savvy and resourceful. I can think for myself. If and when I want some product I will seek it out. None of your "throw your shit in my face" will make me want to buy your product. In fact it alienates me - IOW it has the opposite effect. Get this through your thick skull - people like me who actively use things like AdBlock are not your customers and never will be. We will seek out and buy things using the wonderful internet as a research tool if and when we - not you - determine we need your product. You'd be best to spend your ad dollars on making a stellar product!

    • Likewise. ABP, NoScript, Ghostery, and crap still gets through.

      Meanwhile, I'll go and read speciality genre-sites (Tech, Cars, Boats, etc), product reviews that are little more than rewrites of press-releases, and buy dead-tree editions of PC and Tech mags. It's not as if I hate ads. I just HATE ADS.

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday December 11, 2010 @10:17PM (#34526932)

      Hope you don't mind if I add to this. Maybe we can write a "how to sell to people who're not idiots and hence have the money to buy your stuff 'cause they didn't waste it on crap" guide.

      1. See defaria's posting. Yelling at me is most likely not impressing me. It annoys me. To the point where I do not WANT to hear from you EVER AGAIN. Even if I should ever need a product that you could provide, your name has been tarnished by your own actions, it's now something I connect with "annoying" rather than "pleasant" or "helpful". And nobody wants to buy something that reeks of "annoying".

      2. I will look for something that I need. So make sure you can be found. Ponder what people might look for when they're looking for your product and make sure that you can be found by that term in the important search engines. And that means NOT ONLY Google, and maybe Bing.

      3. Make sure that you are ONLY found by terms that match your product. If I find you no matter whether I look for a new monitor, a new stereo, a new sofa or a new refrigerator, but you're making only dildos, you're annoying me again. The only thing you will accomplish is that I will automatically change my search pattern from "$thing_that_I_want" to "$thing_that_I_want -$your_company".

      4. Make sure I find the specs of your product EASILY. Without wading through pages of flash animated marketing drivel. When I want to get something, I usually have an idea what I want in the product. And if I don't, telling me with a lot of adjectives just how great your product is ain't going to impress me. Tell me WHY it is good. I believe you that you think it's good, don't worry about that. Give me the specs.

      5. And don't pad the specs with crap to make them look like I get more than I actually get. We all know you love those tables with "this feature" in one column and "YES!" in the one next to it, but when you tout a remote control as a YES! feature for a TV set, all it tells me is that you don't have any real defining features because you have to present something as a feature that every crappy TV set out there has today. It is impressive to have a long feature list, yes. It is NOT impressive if that list consists to more than 50% of non-features like remote control, stereo sound speakers or an antenna jack.

      6. Let's assume you have me hooked and I want to buy it: LET ME! I cannot count the times that I actually decided to buy something only to find out that I can't without first jumping through more hoops than the item is worth. If you require me to tell you everything about me including my shoe size and my mom's maiden name, you're wasting my time. I don't care about your statistics. You get what you need to deliver the item to me and what you need to get money from me. Nothing more. If you want more, I take my business elsewhere.

      • by coreduo1 (1190865)
        I fully agree !
      • by symbolic (11752)

        I'd so mod this up if I had points.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        1. It's called re-branding. Pummel you with ads for stuff you don't want, hoping the next time you do want something of that nature, you remember the brand name. You might not even know why you remember it. Just in case you do have that negative association, there is no law against selling the same product under multiple brand names, so you're sill probably going to buy it.

        2. Just try remembering every single product thrown at you from an ad. Chances are, you'll remember any given product without knowing wh

        • 1. I usually not only remember the name of an nuisance but also what it looks like. Rebranding doesn't really work here. But hey, even if it does, I don't mind. At least they'll notice that I buy the item they didn't try to cram down my throat, maybe it's gonna teach them. Not likely, I know, but still.

          2. When I find a product that I do NOT want due to 1 or 3, what good does it serve to let me find it? I will still not buy it. It annoys me so I do not buy it. Even if the next best option is vastly inferior

      • I keep saying Slashdot should have Best Post of the Year awards. This should be a candidate.

      • 7. Allow me to calculate the shipping and handling costs WITHOUT going through a registration process and entering my credit card number first. You can do this, trust me.
      • by Zerohm (1942216)
        I agree completely, but sadly the phrase "A fool and his money are easily parted" exists for a reason. There are a lot of suckers/professional shoppers/people with too much money out there. The American consumer mentality is a beast and everyone is fighting for a piece of the pie.
    • by he-sk (103163)

      Full ACK.

      Thing is, although I hate ads in general I might actually be willing to opt into a few ad channels. For example, if I had disposable income to spend I might opt into a channel for photography products. Of course, if cash is tight I would opt out again because seeing all these products I can't buy tends to be demoralizing.

      I subscribe to a few shopping-related blogs in my feed reader. These are basically ad channels. But the difference to broadcast or web advertisement is that I've chosen the channe

    • by plover (150551) *

      Look, I'm internet savvy and resourceful. I can think for myself. If and when I want some product I will seek it out. None of your "throw your shit in my face" will make me want to buy your product. In fact it alienates me - IOW it has the opposite effect. Get this through your thick skull - people like me who actively use things like AdBlock are not your customers and never will be. We will seek out and buy things using the wonderful internet as a research tool if and when we - not you - determine we need your product. You'd be best to spend your ad dollars on making a stellar product!

      Actually, their ad dollars are spent wisely. Merchandisers know that a significant fraction of the public won't listen to them, and that some of us have run eight flavors of ad-block for the past decade. They also know that leaves a significant fraction that will listen to them, so that's who they're targeting. But opt-in just rubs it in the face of those who are susceptible that there are non-gullible people out there, and nobody wants to think of themselves as gullible; so a large number of the suscept

  • Here is a great niche for free software - module/plugin to throw off tracking. I'm guesing it'd be bit like virus signature chasing, but maybe bit easier.

    I would cook up something along this line on my spare time, but I haven't touched webapps/ecommerce for a few years and not familiar with the current tracking techniques...

  • AC (Score:3, Interesting)

    by machine321 (458769) on Saturday December 11, 2010 @09:48PM (#34526812)

    I find it amusing that most of the comments so far are as AC...

  • Charge 5 bucks and auto opt-out from every single tracker there is.

    If you do it, I'd like my cut. Thanks.

  • Anything less then opt-in to be tracked is just plain unacceptable. Theses company will NOT do anything differently unless forced by our government. And the only way to get our government to do what WE want is to send letters,Lot's and Lot's of letters. When i do a search with google i expect there to be ads for the search term i am looking for, anything more by google is just plain unacceptable. When we go groceries shopping we get then store cards KNOWing we are tracked,but we get a very real price break
    • by vxice (1690200)
      "Online advertiser/marketers provide nothing for the tracking they do to us." So how much do you pay for your slashdot subscription? Ask yourself how much do you pay to see any single website. I bet it comes out pretty low, mostly because most sites don't offer a per view or even subscription service. You could say that you go to free websites knowing they have tracking/advertising as an expectation. Your very real price is not even having to pay for the site.
      • by coreduo1 (1190865)
        Ummm ... You got it all wrong! I don't mind to see ads on 'selected' web sites that I visit (if the ads are the lifeline of said web site, I can disable ABP, noscript et all) BUT ... I DO not want them to follow me (tracking) to totally unrelated site, just because they (?) think that they will provide me 'something' by doing so (user experience?, umm... no). WRONG !
      • by tomhudson (43916)
        I don't block the ads on slashdot. I *do* block the tracking cookies for google analytics, etc. using TACO [mozilla.org], and have opted out of the ad networks that offer an opt-out.

        But yes, legislation to enforce this would be better, because it's one thing to have cookies that track you on a single site (useful for providing persistent site customization, shopping carts, etc), and quite another to share this across web sites, especially with "behavioral tracking".

        • by plover (150551) *

          I block ads and trackers everywhere: the mailbox, the do-not-call list, opt-out mailings, heavy use of the DVR 30-second-skip button while watching pre-recorded TV, and of course on the web. But since I read slashdot so regularly I pay them the subscription fee as recompense. I would rather pay them for the valuable service than waste my time and everyone's bandwidth downloading ads that will only serve to annoy me.

          To all the sites that think that they're not capturing my valuable opinions on what I find

          • by tomhudson (43916)
            One of the reasons I don't block the ads is because they keep me up to date on the latest trends in advertising - if it helps, think of it as "keep your friends close, your enemies closer".

            Every once in a while something captures my interest, so we all get what we aim for out of it. Slashdot gets advertising revenue, sponsors get someone who, if they do click through, actually want the info (as opposed to those stupid interstitial ads), and I learn something new.

            -- barbie

      • by he-sk (103163)

        Slashdot has a checkbox that turns off ads. I'm unsure what the text beneath it means -- either it's sarcasm or the offer is dependent on karma.

      • by Stan92057 (737634)
        "Your very real price is not even having to pay for the site" Getting served an ad is very different then being spied apon/tracked So who is tracking me? Slashdot or the marketers? When I'm on slashdot i don't mind the non flashing ads,but once i leave slashdot its none of there stinking business were i go. Advertisers/marketers track us once we leave slashdot and they provide 0 content.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can just picture it...

    """

    Please come to our URL, enter your name, address, and and email so we can insert a cookie indicate you do not wish to be tracked to our partners.

    Caution: If cookie is deleted, tracking may resume until you opt out again

    """

    This measure is utterly hopeless unless it's double opt-in and comes with a measure whereby employees can be rewarded a years salary (at company expense) for reporting violations. Even the do not call lists in the US are an utter failure.

    I get lawyers calling m

    • by tomhudson (43916)
      The current technique doesn't ask for any personal info - it just sticks a cookie on your machine saying you've opted out. When you request a web page, you send that cookie to the server - the advertising network's javascript on the host web site detects the cookie, and doesn't set any ad tracking cookies. Use of cookies for logging in at the host site are unaffected.

      Some ad networks already voluntarily do this because it helps increase their overall success response rate - they don't bother trying to sel

      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        For example, here's how you can opt out of the DoubleClick cookie for AdSense partner sites, DoubleClick ad serving, and certain Google services that use the DoubleClick cookie

        Here's [mozilla.org] another way. One that doesn't rely on me trusting someone else to do something.

      • by Arker (91948)

        Having doubleclick blacklisted in noscript will probably defeat this absurd procedure.

        Of course it probably also protects my privacy better than this procedure would anyhow.

    • Even the do not call lists in the US are an utter failure.

      Not for the marketers and spammers they're not. The law served to pacify public outcry for regulation with teeth...

      It is truly naive to take a "privacy policy" seriously. Opt-in, opt-out, it doesn't matter. "Your call may be recorded for 'training purposes'".. Our economic system demands it. It will always be this way until we drown all the bankers and their lawyers (metaphorically, of course!) and try a different system of trading goods and services

  • My computers are behind a proxy that blocks certain websites and referrer headers. I use Firefox and block third party cookies.

    When there was a story a month or so ago about tracking, it pointed to websites where one could look up what information they held on you. They had no information about me.

    • ...but they had my address, my age, and the property value of my house. As well as my spouse and inlaws as "possible connections"

      I block everything, don't share things online, am not on facebook, and when i participate somewhere I use fake online ids like "formfeed" or "lonelygirl" instead of my real name Juanita Maria Gonzales.

      So WTF?? Do they now scan the city's property registry or what?

    • You used the right tense: They had no information about you. Now they have the information about you that you care (or someone else does) about what information they have about you. :-)
      If you clicked the Slashdot link to go there, and don't block referrer, they also know that you came from Slashdot.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The only way to opt out is to not give them the data in the first place. They cannot collect what your computer does not send. And since your computer is under your control(*) you get to chose what information it gives. The tools for this already exist.

    (*) Unless you run iOS or Android.

  • What makes the most sense to me is not that we opt out of cookies, but rather that we all use the same cookies.

    We need a repository of tracking cookies and a plugin that sets all of our cookies to the same thing. That way there is no dependence upon the trackers to be good or ill. We just all pretend to be the same "person".

    -sh

  • by Compaqt (1758360) on Sunday December 12, 2010 @02:56AM (#34527584) Homepage

    Speaking of opt-out, does anybody know what happened to Junkbusters? They use to have an open source proxy, as well as other anti-tracking tools.

    • by Nartie (1128613)
      Junkbusters seems to be dead. Privoxy is based on Junkbusters and last I heard was alive.
  • This is going to sound stupid - even for me, but I'm still going to pose this question.

    Assume that they're not going to send you spam email - and that this advertising company is only taking care of the online ads you view. Any information which they sell will be sold only to similar no-email-spam companies.

    Now I go to my favourite website, and its full of ads. The amount of ads aren't going to change whether they track you or not, just that their content will depend on the websites you've visited before. S
  • And how often have you replied to some spam saying you want to opt out? It's a recipe for having a hundred times as much spam now they know you read it. It's confirmation that you are a prime candidate for spam. So now they want you to stick your email in a register saying you don't want the stuff. Give me a break. Anyone like that I'll avoid like a plague.
  • Such advertisement practice should be opt-in to begin with. In telephone, e-mail and mail we only have opt-in for a reason. Why there are no laws to make such practice online opt-in?
  • So much entitlement here from people who outright block ads. Do you have any idea how much websites are paid for via advertising? Hell /. LOVES Google, where did they get their money from again? I seriously would love to see an online world with no ads just to watch most sites be put behind a paywall or some other way of recouping the money no longer received from advertising. Then everyone here with their entitlement complex would complain about that too. Of course every little be of digital data should be
  • Just lie. Get/make a Firefox add-in, an Opera widget, whatever, that generates tons of false information. Poison the well for these suckers.

    BTW, if they allow someone to look at the data, what authentication do they use?
    Can I change or block any random mis-identification data that is presented to me?
    Can a robot walk the data and harvest even more throw-away email addresses?
    Targeted spam - its no longer a contradiction in terms.

    Sounds like a bad idea that makes trouble for all concerned.

  • The brit in me hoped that the acronym would be BAPS. :|

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