Privacy groups seek "do not track" Web list

WASHINGTON Wed Oct 31, 2007 6:20pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nine privacy and consumer organizations asked the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday to create a "do not track" list for Internet users who don't want their online activities tracked, stored and used by advertising networks.

Such a list would function much like the FTC's "do not call" registry that consumers can join to prevent telemarketing phone calls, according to the groups, which include the Center for Democracy and Technology, Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Consumer Federation of America.

Internet advertising companies and marketers increasingly are collecting information about individuals' Web activities and preferences so as to tailor their advertising messages.

In recent months, Google Inc, Yahoo and Microsoft Corp have all struck deals to acquire online advertising companies.

Executives from the three companies and other Internet firms are scheduled to address an FTC public meeting on behavioral advertising practices on Thursday and Friday.

The "do not track" list would require advertisers that place electronic cookies or tags on consumers' computers to register with the FTC all domain names of the servers involved in such activities, according to the groups.

"Online opt-outs should be as well-known and as easy as the Do Not Call list," said Mark Cooper, research director of Consumer Federation of America.

The proposal would also prohibit advertisers from collecting and using personally identifiable information about health and financial activities and would require independent auditing of companies using behavioral tracking to ensure they upheld privacy standards.

A day ahead of the FTC hearing, AOL, Time Warner Inc's Internet division, said it would let its users opt out of online ads they get because of the Web sites they visited.

The FTC's "do not call" registry was created in 2003 to restrict the hours that unsolicited telephone calls may be made to consumers. Consumers voluntarily register their telephone numbers by calling a toll-free number or by using the Internet. The registry now contains 145 million telephone numbers.

(Reporting by Julie Vorman)