Out of My Mind 26

‘Do Not Track’ bill a good idea

I was quick to sign up for the “DoNot Call” Registry when the program was made available and for the most part,it has worked well. Except for a few persistent callers who seem to blatantlyignore the law – mostly it seems, windshield repair services – I’ve been happywith the drop in cold calls wanting to sell me something I don’t want. Perhapsthe best comedic line concerning these pests came from Jerry Seinfeld when heasks a phone salesman what time he eats dinners so he can call him back then.Of course the salesman was indignant at the very thought someone might disturbhim while he was eating.

My dirty little secret is that Ispent a couple of weeks working for Time-Life Books in a call center with abeautiful view of Lake Union. It was one of several jobs I had early on aftercollege as I looked for work in my field in Seattle. At the same time I workedat Larry’s Super, a small grocery store and for a photographer, taking photosof office parties and Fraternity and Sorority parties on Greek Row at UW.Anyway, my heart just wasn’t in selling on the phone to people who hadn’t askedto be contacted in the first place. For years however, I could recite theprepared script they gave us on “The Loggers” the first in Time-Life’s WesternSeries.

Now, a California Congresswoman hasproposed the Do Not Track Me Online Act which would provide an option forconsumers to opt out of the online tracking advertisers use to target ads. Theact would be much like the National Do Not Call Registry and companies thatdidn’t respect an Internet users choice to opt out would be subject to legalconsequences. I think it would be a positive step in stemming some of themillions of bits of data that advertisers and perhaps others we don’t knowabout, use to gather information about us online. In today’s world of Googleand Facebook we often all too easily give up our rights to privacy and the actwould at least give us the option of asking that our private information remainso. If you like people knowing everything you do online, then by all meansdon’t opt out – but it would be your choice, not that of the marketers.

“Consumers should have the right tochoose if their private information – from shoe size, to health concerns, toreligious beliefs – is collected, analyzed and profiled by companies trackingactivities online,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D) said in a statement. “Do Not Trackis the simple way for consumers to say ‘no thanks’ to being monitored whilethey surf the web.”

If it works as well as the Do Not Call Registry it will bea step in the right direction, although those crafty people that want to sellyou stuff have other ways of tracking our purchase decisions. Did you everwonder why some retail stores, like grocery chains, give out those club cards,the ones that if you show them your card you get a special discount on yourpurchases? It’s not just out of the goodness of their hearts, it’s so they cantrack what you buy. If that was the end of it, it might be a good thing,showing trends and giving the store the ability to keep products that you finduseful on their shelves. However, stop and think what else they might do withthat information – many sell it to manufacturers and advertisers who thentarget you with their advertising. Once you opt in to these programs you neverknow who is getting a hold of your private information.

For now, I’ll be happy if we get theoption to opt out of having my information tracked on line. And next, maybethey can come up with a way to get a handle on the spammers – that would reallymake me happy.