Would Obama’s Own Campaign Ads Be Banned by ‘Do-Not-Track’ Legislation?

Yes We Can…send targeted Barack Obama ’12 campaign ads based on your online behavior. That probably won’t appear on a bumper sticker near you, but it’s exactly what President Obama’s just-launched reelection campaign is doing. And it’s exactly the type of online tracking that would be regulated by an Obama administration-supported ‘do-not-track’ system.

Yes We Can…send targeted Barack Obama ’12 campaign ads based on your online behavior.  That probably won’t appear on a bumper sticker near you, but it’s exactly what President Obama’s just-launched reelection campaign is doing.  And it’s exactly the type of online tracking that would be regulated by an Obama administration-supported ‘do-not-track’ system.

What’s a president-candidate-politician-government leader to do?

For President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the thing to do is to use ad-tracking technologies to reach your voters.

As soon as Obama launched his campaign this week with a campaign video on his website and an e-mail to supporters, ads dropped on left-leaning sites like DailyKos, Democratic Underground, and Wonkette and social networking sites like Facebook asking “Are You In?”

The ads are a signal of what is to come as the Obama campaign follows in the path of other politicians and advocacy groups in using modern-day tools like tracking cookies and ad networks to find the online sites the voters they’re seeking are visiting and, vice versa, to find voters through targeting online sites.

And it is just that type of ad tracking that has prompted the Federal Trade Commission, federal legislators, and the U.S. Commerce Department to seek a “Do Not Track” tool for the Web that would allow consumers to prevent advertisers from collecting their data and tracking their online habits.

ClickZ reports:

The BarackObama.com campaign site employs basic behavioral ad tracking technology that has grown in prevalence among political advertisers since the ’08 election. Visitors to the site are receiving retargeting cookies from online ad networks including AOL’s Advertising.com, Yahoo’s BlueLithium, and Google. In the future, they will most likely receive Obama ads while visiting any of the countless sites in those networks, because they visited the campaign site.

Retargeting is pervasive online, particularly on retail, financial services or other commercial sites; it’s just the sort of data collection and ad targeting technology that could be limited by do-not-track and online privacy-related legislation currently working its way through Congress…

Obama’s own top policy advisor on communications, Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling, recently called on Congress to enact an “online privacy bill of rights” to give people more control over tracking and targeting, while the FTC earlier called specifically for a ‘do-not-track’ model that would allow consumers to ‘opt-out’ of online tracking.

Congress is also considering no less than seven pieces of legislation related to online privacy, including the “Do Not Track Me Online Act of 2011,” introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) in February that would require the Federal Trade Commission to develop standards for Web browsers.

For a campaign certainly focused on polls and voter approval, here’s another statistic to follow:  a recent Gallup poll found 67 percent of Americans support Congress enforcing a ‘do-not-track’ system and 90 percent of Internet users report they pay “little or no” attention to the online ads on their computer screen.

In a campaign estimated to raise a record $1 billion, and spend a good portion of it on Internet advertising alone, every voter, every eye, every ad, and every cookie, ad network and online tracking tool counts.

So the question remains:  will Internet users, and 2012 voters, be able to ‘opt-out’ of campaign ads?

Again, what’s a president-candidate-politician-government leader to do?