In an interview with ClickZ, the FTC’s incoming chief technologist, Edward Felten, provides insight into the scope of the Commission’s proposed “Do Not Track” mechanism and how compliance could be enforced.  Felten makes three key points:  

  • The proposed mechanism applies only to third-party tracking for behavioral advertising.  It would not apply to a publisher’s use of a service provider for website analytics — that is, unless the analytics provider makes further use of the data it collects.
  • It makes sense to first offer a Do Not Track mechanism in the traditional web context while continuing to examine its feasibility for other technology platforms (including mobile and gaming devices).
  • The FTC’s enforcement role will depend on whether Do Not Track is created by self-regulation or legislation.  If the former, the FTC’s role may simply be to prevent companies from misrepresenting their compliance with the system.  But if Do Not Track becomes law, the FTC may be in the position of investigating improper tracking.

The Do Not Track mechanism is part of the FTC’s recently-proposed framework for privacy protection. You can read our summary of the framework here.  The Commission has invited comments on its proposal, which are due by January 31, 2011.