Netizens Gain Some Privacy

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[Commentary] Pressure by regulators is having an effect on consumer privacy on the Internet.

Last week, Google and Mozilla announced new software for their Web browsers that would allow consumers to permanently opt out of the online tracking used by many advertisers to follow online activities, build consumer profiles and deliver tailored ads. The move follows efforts by some of the largest Internet advertisers and data trackers -- including Google and Yahoo -- to offer consumers an easy way to opt out of tracking on their sites. Microsoft said it would offer a feature (dropped last year) that would allow surfers using Internet Explorer to block some monitoring efforts. Mozilla’s feature, which will be added to new versions of its Firefox browser, will broadcast users’ preference not to be tracked to the Web sites they visit and the tracking companies that deliver cookies from these sites.

But it will be up to these companies to comply with customers’ wishes. Many advertising networks that offer opt-outs still track surfing, just not for marketing. To close these loopholes, Congress should require all advertising and tracking companies to offer consumers the choice of whether they want to be followed online to receive tailored ads, and make that option easily chosen on every browser.



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