On May 21, 2014 California released guidelines for online tracking disclosures aimed at helping companies follow the state’s new privacy law. The law requires websites to reveal and highlight all of their privacy practices for visitors, which includes how the site handles “do not track” requests (Yahoo seems to be following directions). Kamala D. Harris, California’s attorney general, urges websites to explain to consumers privacy protocols in plain English. She states, “This guide is a tool for businesses to create clear and transparent privacy policies that reflect the state’s privacy laws and allow consumers to make informed decisions.”
New York Times reporter Vindu Goel cites this news as one of the many examples of the gray area that protects online consumer privacy. Goel writes, “Today, virtually no site respects “do not track” requests coming from web browsers…The crux of the problem is that no one agrees on what “do not track” actually means.”
The industry needs to come to a consensus on the definition of “do not track.” In the meantime, companies need to pay close attention to consumer privacy needs and personal rights. Providing web visitors with opt-in privacy controls and/or transparency into company privacy practices will strengthen consumer trust in brands and make them more valuable to their targeted audiences. With transparency comes respect—and that is a commodity that is immeasurable.