There’s a sharp piece by Fred Wilson in the New York Times today pointing out the benefits of online “tracking.” It’s part of a series of essays in one of their “Room for Debate” series about the FTC’s new “Do Not Track” regulatory proposal. (Our own Jim Harper also has a good essay worth reading.)
In Wilson’s essay, “Tracking Personalizes the Web,” he argues:
“Tracking helps services like the Weather Channel give you the information you are looking for without having to enter a lot of data every time you use the service. Tracking can make sure you don’t see the same news story twice. Tracking is the technology behind some of the most powerful personalization technologies on the Web. A Web without tracking technology would be so much worse for users and consumers.”
He’s right, “tracking” makes personalization possible–and much more effective. But the really important point here is the one I made early today in my essay on “No-Cost Opt-Outs & Online Content & Culture“: data collection and advertising drive the free online content, sites, and services we take for granted today. Personalization of all those things is great, but we might not have some (most?) of them at all without data collection and advertising, or we’d at least have fewer that were entirely gratis.
Free isn’t really free, people!