WASHINGTON - Privacy, consumer and technology groups last week led a push for a national "Do Not Track" registry, similar to the "Do Not Call" list already in place.
The pitch to the Federal Trade Commission, which took place just prior to a two-day conference on behavioral advertising, came from nine groups, including the World Privacy Forum and the Center for Democracy and Technology. Representatives said the list is needed now, as large Internet companies are looking to increase tracking of surfers' online behavior to target them with ads based on their clicking habits.
Online ad sales are expected to increase from $17 billion in 2006 to $44 billion in 2011, according to eMarketer.com. The growing popularity of online ads is partly due to the sophisticated technology available for targeting ads.
The proposal for the "Do Not Track" registry is modeled after the "Do Not Call" list the FTC created in 2003. Telemarketers are banned from calling numbers on the "Do Not Call" list, which encompasses about 145 million numbers.
The FTC does not regulate advertising networks and their privacy policies; the industry polices itself, said officials from the Network Advertising Initiative, a group of 11 advertising members. Web users can opt out of advertising by downloading cookies.
But that is not enough, according to the groups calling for the "Do Not Track" registry. The groups claim that advertising networks' self-regulation has been insufficient.
Advertising representatives say targeting is beneficial because Internet users would only see ads for products they might be interested in, as opposed to random ads. The groups pushing for the "Do Not Track" registry say companies collecting vast amounts of data on surfers and their patterns could pose a privacy threat.
FTC officials said they would consider the proposal.