The New York Times is supporting the idea that online ad companies should obtain users' opt-in consent before tracking them across the Web in order to build marketing profiles.
In an editorial published today, the Times criticizes the "dubious" ways in which companies track people for marketing purposes. The newspaper goes on to say that Web browsers "ideally" should offer a do-not-track setting that's turned on by default. The editorial predicts that many consumers might still opt for tracking "because they want to receive special offers."
Like many Web publishers, the Times currently informs users about online behavioral advertising and tells them how to opt out -- though, obviously, the Times could move to an opt-in system in the future.
In the same piece, the Times also called for new privacy laws, specifically writing that legislation was preferable to voluntary standards. The newspaper suggests that the U.S. follow Europe's lead in developing stronger safeguards.
The Times isn't the only company to come out in favor of do-not-track by default. Last year Microsoft caused a stir in the online ad industry by saying that Internet Explorer 10 would ship with do-not-track set to on.
Still, it's notable that the Times would advocate for a shift toward requiring opt-in consent of behavioral advertising, given that conventional wisdom among media industry executives is that personalization will help boost ad revenues.
In 2009, the Newspaper Association of America told the Federal Trade Commission that behavioral targeting "shows significant promise for newspapers seeking new ways to support local journalism." Two years later, the NAA reiterated concerns that new privacy laws could put a crimp in newspapers' budgets.