"As the debate around online privacy and advertiser access to users’ data continues, a group of the advertising industry’s largest trade organizations was to announce on Monday the details of a self-regulatory program that would allow users to opt out of being tracked by its member organizations.New York Times - Ad Group Unveils Plan to Improve Web Privacy
The program provides details on how companies can adopt some of the principles for conducting online behavioral advertising outlined in a report released last July.
The program includes the use of an icon called the “Advertising Option Icon” that marketers can place near their ads or on the Web pages that collect data that is used for behavioral targeting. Users who click on the icon, a lower case letter “I” inside a triangle that is pointing right, will see an explanation of why they are seeing a particular ad and will be able to opt out of being tracked."
The Register - Opting out of behavioural ads to get easier for US users
"Five advertising trade groups, including the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), have launched a new program that will label online advertisements that their members serve based on the Web-surfing habits of consumers.ComputerWorld - Online groups introduce labeling for targeted ads
The five groups on Monday launched AboutAds.info, which gives online advertisers and networks information about the new advertising option icon. The groups are pushing members to use the icon, which will be tied to an opt-out mechanism for targeted advertising, alongside online advertisements.
The action by the five groups comes as some members of the U.S. Congress have explored privacy legislation that would set rules for the collection of personal data by online advertisers. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission also issued revised guidelines for behavioral advertising in February 2009, and it is again looking at new standards."
Do I trust this self-regulatory scheme?
In my opinion, having the opt-out plan won't actually increase privacy protection. It will give the illusion of control to people who surf the net and will lead to most just skipping right past the icon. Or, we're going to get awesome options like the ones provided by FaceBook where you can click the little X to make an ad go away, and then have to answer a quiz about why you dislike the ad - which allows them to do even better behavioural marketing by assessing the negative responses.
I would suspect that the "feeling" of control, will also cause less privacy conscious behaviours on the part of users. I don't have a reference handy, but when researching fast food purchasing behaviours, studies have indicated that having the option of a salad on a fast food menu causes consumers to relax about their meal choices and their calorie intake - and end up eating more because people tell themselves "next time i will make a healthier choice" (at least according to post-purchase interviews [as i recall the study report]).
It seems to have worked so well before. Worked so well in favour of regular people.
Think of how well self-regulation worked for big banks in the U.S. recently - heck self-regulation only caused the near collapse of the international financial system, the collapse of the global economy, threw millions upon millions of people out of work, caused a world-wide recession that is still ongoing with substantive economic effects that are predicted to last for 10 years - so, hey, that's only 8 more years. Sure, self-regulation - always an idea with merit.