Companies pledge more openness about web tracking

Companies that track consumer behavior online for advertising purposes are vowing to make their practices more transparent and to give people a way to decline being shadowed, reports the Associated Press. It’s unclear how much of an effect the new policies will have. One consumer group said the changes don’t go far enough, and that extensive profiles of people still will be collected without their complete consent. The new guidelines represent the industry’s attempt at self-regulation as Congress and the Federal Trade Commission have been examining online behavioral advertising. Companies can track consumers as they visit different web sites, conduct searches, and buy things. Over time, profiles of consumer interests can be sold to advertisers who want to pitch their products only to people most likely to be interested in them. The information collected can include a best guess at someone’s ethnicity, income, educational level, age, and hobbies. The new guidelines recommend that companies tell consumers more clearly when they’re being tracked, educate them on how web tracking works, and give them an easy way to opt out of being followed. According to the new policies, industry groups will monitor whether companies are breaking the guidelines and report violators to federal agencies, starting next year…

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