Is This A Level Playing Field?

Here’s aNew York Times piece about a privacy initiative that’s been agreed to by federal regulators and at least some advertising and technology trade groups. The key feature of the plan is to allow consumers to more easily opt out of having their browsing habits “tracked.” Tracking information allows online advertisers to tailor ads to consumers based on that browsing history. And while the concept strikes lots of folks as creepy, it’s a lucrative and maybe essential practice for online advertisers. So there are plenty of folks out there who’d like the opt out option to not be all that easy to choose. Another feature of the initiative is that it only applies to third party sites, that is, networks that collect and use data to serve advertising tailored to the user. First party sites, such as Amazon, Google or the New York Times, are not affected. That seems like a playing field that is not quite level. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The fear of course, is if cooperative agreements don’t work, the federal government may just impose regulations. And no one ever seems to like that.