AOL – Time Warner’s Do-Not-Track List Project

This morning the New York Times posted an article entitled, “Online Marketers Joining Internet Privacy Efforts“. This posting highlights AOL’s push to create a website linking concerned surfers to participating advertising networks’ do-not-track lists.

Some writers online are comparing these lists to the do-not-call lists. It’s incorrect to compare do-not-call lists with do-not-track lists.

Do-not-track lists “do-not” prevent advertising networks from serving advertising to you while you surf the internet like do-not-call lists do for your phone line. Instead, opting out will ensure advertising will not be served based on the tracking of a surfer’s web behavior. Ad quantity won’t be reduced; however the ad relevance could suffer.

For those who would like to find a “do-not-call” list for online advertising while surfing, good luck. But the alternative is a great (free) add-on tool for Firefox called AdBlock. This tool allows the user to set preferences to only see desired advertising. Don’t complain until you’ve tried it.

I find myself asking questions. As an online consumer, why wouldn’t I prefer to see advertising that’s highly targeted to my wants and needs rather than seeing untargeted advertising littering my screen?

I also find myself asking if the average internet user understands how targeted advertising works? Do they understand what data is collected by advertisers and which is ignored? Do users understand that their “personal identity” still remains anonymous to marketers?

My point is that most likely the average internet user doesn’t understand what data is collected, why it’s collected, or how behavioral targeting improves the user’s advertising experience.

AOL is hoping to be able to persuade persons who opt-out using these lists to also voluntarily provide demographical information to further aid advertisers in improving ad relevance.

If the average user doesn’t understand both sides of the coin, will these options AOL is providing ever become popular enough to make a significant impact on tracking? My opinion is no.

I’m looking for opinions. Will this help or hurt behavioral targeting initiatives in the future? Will the results be similar to that of DVR on TV advertising?