What the Heck is DNT?

Written by Chris Czachor – Account Executive

Last month, my colleague Julie Determann, wrote about online behavioral targeting and how websites and advertisers are leveraging the information gathered online and “following” you around with banner ads and reminders about that shirt or pair of shoes you left in a shopping cart and didn’t buy.  This type of targeted advertising is playing a big part of a larger movement that is steadily gaining steam and it is simply called “Do Not Track.”

So, what the heck is Do Not Track (DNT) anyway?  Do Not Track is a technology standard intended to allow individual web users to decide whether or not they consent to having their online activities monitored, mostly for the purpose of being served targeted advertising.  Now, to some web users, this sounds amazing, right?  No longer will third-party advertisers and “big brother” be allowed to follow them around the web, right?  Well, not really and before you jump on the Do Not Track bandwagon take a second to think through what it actually will mean.

Do Not Track is not going to get rid of ads being served up on your favorite sites.  In fact, utilizing Do Not Track will make those ads probably way worse then they already seem to some users.  Would you rather have targeted ads that at least appeal to some of your general interests or just a total random assortment of ads being served up by third-party companies?  I for one, would prefer the highly targeted ad.  At the very least it could be something I am interested in and could be worth checking out.  Or, it could be a great reminder about that that shirt I wanted but forgot to purchase. Also, any site you access through one of your social network logins (facebook, linkedin, twitter, etc) will not be effected even if you do have Do Not Track active.  So, while it was super easy to sign up for that site by just logging in with your facebook account, it is not going to be so easy to turn off tracking going forward.

There is far more information available online about the intricacies and complexity of Do Not Track and what it could mean, but at the very least I wanted to draw attention to the issue and make mention that it has far greater implications than just appear on the surface.  One of the best things about the web is how you can get such great content that is custom and personalized to the specific user and if Do Not Track becomes more prevalent, that could all change.  The right to privacy is very important, but let’s not take it too far.

Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/Marco Volpi