Yes to opt-out

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For the future of target marketing, no issue may be more important than the ongoing data collection debate between marketers favoring "opt-out" rules and consumerists who favor a much more restrictive "opt-in" standard. Opt-out is the sensible plan for both the online and offline worlds. But the online business should stop undermining its case and make the opt-out option simple and available at every site.

Opt-out lets consumers tell Web sites and other media not to collect their personal information. It lets data be collected from the far larger number of consumers who have no objection -- without requiring businesses to obtain prior consent. Opt-in requires permission before any data can be collected -- from anyone. That's a costly hurdle.

Opt-out can work for consumers only if it's truly universal and supremely easy to use. On this point, DoubleClick, as the leading Web ad network, needs to face reality and lead the way. It has an "opt-out" page, but it's not necessarily easy to find, as we report in this issue's Interactive Media & Marketing section. DoubleClick and its clients should simplify the opt-out process and make it widely and clearly available, perhaps by sticking opt-out icons on all DoubleClick sites. And it should release the names of sites that are contributing data to its new offline/online database.

This kind of openness should become the standard on the Web.

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