"Do Not Track" Internet spat risks legislative crackdown
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House wants a "Do Not Track" option put on websites to give consumers greater control of their personal information online but Internet companies and privacy groups are at odds on how tight the controls should be.
The stalemate could lead to a legislative crackdown on Internet privacy if left unresolved.
That has firms like Google Inc and Facebook Inc that rely heavily on collecting user data worried that any legislation could lead to cuts in online advertising that would eat into their profits.
The U.S. administration has looked to an Internet standards setting body, already eyeing a "Do Not Track" mechanism and with an aggressive timeline in place, to corral everyone into a room and onto teleconferences to reach a deal.
With over 10 months of talks under the group's belt, they are still talking but are arguably no closer to an agreement than when they started. The sides are so far apart that they don't even agree on what "Do Not Track" means.
To privacy advocates, it is halting data collection so a consumer can surf the Web without any prying eyes collecting information about their online activities for economic gain. To the industry, however, it means not targeting ads to a consumer based on their Web viewing history, but data collection would continue for other purposes.
The next step, if no consensus is reached by year's end, will likely test regulatory and congressional threats of legislation to enforce Internet privacy.
This puts Internet companies in the midst of an existential dilemma as their business models rely on consumers parting with their personal information to bolster ad revenue. Continued...