NEW YORK: An alliance of US consumer and privacy groups has called on web advertisers to support a do-not-track pledge that will shield users' online habits from internet marketers. It would emulate the telemarketers do-not-call register.

Among the groups backing the proposal are the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

In addition to a register of web users who decline to be tracked via cookies, the groups also suggest marketers should disclose the kind of data they intend to collect while their ad is on-screen.

Cookies can currently be used to decipher the contents of a shopping cart on a retail website; to record a user's login details; to track surfing behavior and offer appropriate ads.

Behavioral targeting is rapidly becoming an important marketing tool, but privacy lobbyists argue the collection of such information creates "a privacy imbalance that has deprived Americans of the right to control their personal information".

They aver that existing schemes like the Network Advertising Initiative don't offer enough protection to consumers, most of whom misunderstand a site's privacy policy small print.

But behavioural tracking specialists argue, not surprisingly, that more accurate targeting of ads would enable fewer, more relevant messages, making for a better consumer experience.

They cite surveys - among them a Forrester Research report on consumer attitudes - which claim web users are irritated by too many ads and by messages that are disruptive and irrelevant.

The debate is being aired just before the Federal Trade Commission convenes a two-day workshop on ad targeting and internet privacy.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff