Privacy groups call for opt-out web adverts

US privacy advocates are lobbying for the creation of a “do not track” list, which would prevent users’ online activities being collected for behaviourally-targeted advertisements.

Privacy groups call for opt-out web adverts

Behavioural advertising is the practice of using cookies to collect information on the websites people visit in order to target them with tailored advertising.

The proposed “do not track list” would require advertisers who use this technique to submit the domain names of the servers involved to a central database. Users could then download this list and use it to block the servers through their browser.

Eight privacy groups, including the Centre for Democracy and Technology, have approached the Federal Trade Commission to create the list, which they describe as being similar to the “do not call” lists established in many countries, which allows customers to opt out of telemarketing.

The groups are also calling for independent auditing of the companies involved to ensure they comply with the privacy regulations.

AOL has already introduced software to allow its customers to opt out of behavioural advertising, by downloading a cookie to their machine which blocks the ads from appearing on any AOL, or AOL-related site.

“We want to make the opt-out process as simple and transparent as possible,” says Jules Polonetsky, Chief Privacy Officer at AOL. “We urge the industry to join us in ensuring that users who take steps to minimise the data they provide have their choices maintained.”

Figures from research firm EMarketer forecast sales through online advertising to be worth £4.5 billion by 2011.

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