Don’t Track Me Bro! New Bill Puts the Heat on Online Advertising Networks
November 14, 2013
We may be seeing more transparency with online advertising networks soon as California Governor Jerry Brown has just signed into law a bill that requires companies to disclose whether or not they abide by Do Not Track provisions. The new bill, also known as AB 370, requires online advertising networks like Google’ AdSense and Facebook’s FBX that collect personal information to disclose how they respond to Do Not Track requests. The idea is that the bill will shame companies to be more forthcoming about how they track users’ web activity.
The conversation is in a holding pattern on a national level as The Digital Advertising Alliance has stalled out on talks to create a national Do Not Track law. However, many privacy advocates are confident that AB 370 will effectively become the national law.
Currently, many browsers like Firefox have added features to allow users to tell companies that they do not want their activities tracked for advertising purposes. However, as it stands now, online advertising companies are free to ignore these requests. Furthermore, they don’t even have to notify users that these requests are being ignored. AB 370 will seek to reverse this by penalizing companies who say they adhere to Do Not Track but fail to do so. On the flipside, advertising networks that do not abide by Do Not Track run the risk of losing consumer trust.
There is some irony involved. Over the past year, Google has been moving toward more secure searches, making it harder to track how users are organically arriving at websites via Google searches. Now it seems that Google will have to stand by their commitment to user privacy by honoring Do Not Track requests or else lose credibility in the eyes of their users. Unless, of course, they disclose trade secrets on how they track user information, which seems unlikely.