There has been much talk and worry about the ‘Do Not Track’ legislation proposed by Federal Trade Commission in early December 2010, and now that Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox both have plugins/features to block certain types of third party cookies (and we also know that Internet Explorer 9 is gonna have it too) the worry has built up even more.
Over the past two days I’ve spoken with folks in nearly every major affiliate network (namely Commission Junction, LinkShare, Google Affiliate Network, and AvantLink), and none of them could confirm that such brower plugins will have a negative affect on affiliate tracking. The major reason being is that the focus of the ‘Do Not Track’ proposal is actually on very particular type of tracking. Reading the original FTC’s proposal we see that they are looking to establish “a uniform choice mechanism for online behavioral advertising” which would make the practice of personalized behavioral advertising visible and transparent to consumers who are being tracked to be served “targeted advertisements” (pp. 12-13). With this in mind, they propose that consumers should be able to “control the collection and use of their online browsing data”, considered specifically in light of “targeted advertisements” and “behavioral advertising” (p. 14) [underlining mine]. Page 16 continues:
…the Commission supports a more uniform and comprehensive consumer choice mechanism for online behavioral advertising, sometimes referred to as “Do Not Track.” The most practical method of providing uniform choice for online behavioral advertising would likely involve placing a setting similar to a persistent cookie on a consumer’s browser, and conveying that setting to sites that the browser visits, to signal whether or not the consumer wants to be tracked or receive targeted advertisements. [again, emphasis added by me]
In discussing Firefox’s newest “Do Not Track” plugin AvantLink‘s CTO David Clark has confirmed to me that it should not affect their tracking in any way. The focus of the mechanism is just different. It is not affiliate cookies that they’re concerned with, but the behavioral targeting type tracking; and while some affiliate networks do set behavioral type cookies, affiliate tracking isn’t tied to them.
In December of 2010 Lucas Brown of HasOffers wrote:
I don’t think the FTC is really targeting the affiliate marketing industry specifically. Rather, they are interested in preventing those that control some of the largest distribution channels from mining data and selling it as behavioral user data… The FTC is really more concerned about the abuse of behavioral advertising…
Today an affiliate marketing industry’s veteran, one of the original founders of Commission Junction, and a co-founder of Impact Radius, Todd Crawford told me:
Personally, I am confident that performance advertising will not be impacted by this type of legislation because the companies doing the tracking can limit the data they capture to ensure that they are in compliance.
What do you think?