Do Not Track: A Disclosure Bill or Something More?

California has the latest development for the Do Not Track efforts.  The Amendment to CA's Online Privacy Protection Act (AB 370) aims to push forward measures that would purportedly give consumers more privacy online. The bill begs the question of whether it will simply act as a disclosure or provide something more.

Advocates of the bill worry that consumers’ rights to privacy are at risk from advertisers tracking consumer behaviors online.  In the minds of the advocates, the bill would provide a step in the right direction to allow consumers more visibility into the marketing practices of organizations.

Requirements of CA’s Do Not Track bill, state websites that collect personally identifiable information must do two main things.  First, disclose whether the website honors requests of consumers to disable online tracking.  Second, if the website allows third-parties to track users/consumers. Websites that do not offer this information within their privacy policy would have 30 days to comply with new requirements. 

Short of disclosing the information to consumers, the bill does not require websites to do anything further.  It is up to the consumer to determine whether or not the consumer wants to patronize the website.  The bill may turn away potential consumers as a result of marketing practices of tracking user behaviors.  However, consumers may not care about the tracking or may not pay attention to the privacy policies. 

Potentially large implications exist for companies from a marketing and revenue perspective.  Disclosures will simply inform consumers who want additional information, but will only disclose the information for now.  The choice will still remain with the consumer whether to continue to visit that particular website.  


Michelle Wimmer, eec member