Diving into 'Do Not Track'

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Some websites now require users to turn off programs that block ads as a condition to gaining access to their content, much as some websites and videos will load after displaying an advertisement that the consumer cannot avoid. If consumers do not want to be tracked, they can take their business elsewhere.

And some companies could decide to charge for access to their content. A free market is an essential element here: If consumers would rather pay with their wallets instead of paying with their privacy, so be it. If not, that's fine too.

Myth: Do Not Track Is a Panacea for Modern Privacy Problems

It is important not to conflate Do Not Track with comprehensive privacy protection. It is not a silver bullet. It is a solution for a particular privacy concern -- behavioral advertising.

It will not address any of the privacy risks associated with mobile devices, social networking or cloud computing.

Nor will it address the collection of personal data offline or the aggregation and sale of personal data by data brokers. There is a risk that our focus on Do Not Track will divert attention from the real prize: a baseline consumer privacy law that requires all entities that collect and use personal data to engage in fair information practices.

Getting such a law passed is an urgent priority for consumers and for companies that operate in the global economy. Do Not Track is a welcome rest stop along that path, but it must not be the final destination.

Leslie Harris is president and CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology.

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