Thou shalt not track?

Obviously big news today is the US presidential debate. Tight race, Obama losing, Obama slightly ahead in Colorado, Mitt Romney is offered by Bill Clinton to plug the “USB charger into the back of his neck” prior to debate. But how does that concern us Down Under?

Well, according to Forbes and the New York Times both Obama’s and Romney’s campaigns have been using cookies and various data-mining techniques on an unprecedented scale to determine which voters to target. That means the rival parties have been collecting personal intel with access to details beginning with financial data, homes in foreclosure and ending with beer preferences, gay friends and even pornography website visits.

In other words, the voters’ online behaviour has been thoroughly tracked and researched, posing potential threat to their privacy. And that’s viewed by many as an alarming global trend.

The debate over “Do Not Track” privacy preference, that users can set in their web browsers, has been heating up for almost 4 years now. The now thriving “surveillance economy” wants to keep this data flowing in, while privacy advocates want the users to have some control over their data leakage.

Browsers like Firefox and Safari currently offer the “Do Not Track” capability as an opt-in feature. However Microsoft plans to include it in its upcoming Internet Explorer as a default browser setting.

No wonder this decision does not sit well with advertisers. In the US the Direct Marketing Association has recently announced the creation of the Data-Driven Marketing Institute, a fantastic initiative ADMA is proud to support. Its goal is to combat the negative image that data-driven marketing now has thanks to privacy proponents. The effort will focus on convincing the consumers that data collection can only be beneficial, that it serves businesses well and propels economic development worldwide.

After all it’s up to consumers to decide whether they value their privacy enough to start paying premiums on all online services or whether they are prepared to offer their personal info in exchange for free services.

What is your stance on “Do Not Track”? Share your thoughts with us here, or on our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

In the meantime here’s the DMA’s first step on the way to raising awareness about data-driven marketing and how it’s improving our lives and changing the world:

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