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How much is online privacy worth to you?

December 9, 2010 |  4:45 pm

Microsoft has done an about-face on online privacy, announcing a new version of its Internet Explorer browser Tuesday that will enable people to stop advertisers from tracking them online. The announcement came a little more than a week after the Wall Street Journal  reported  a similar change of heart by Mozilla, the makers of the Firefox browser.

Both companies had previously dropped anti-tracking features from their browsers, prompting critics to accuse them of bowing to pressure from advertisers. Regardless of whether the critics are right, advertisers have made it clear that online marketing won't be as valuable to them without the tracking techniques that help target their messages to the right audience. And if they aren't willing to pay as much to advertise online, that could make it harder for websites to offer as much free content as they do today.

Or at least that's the argument advanced  by executives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which represents online marketers. As Steve Sullivan, head of the IAB's West Coast office, said in an op-ed for The Hill, "[S]ites could all be forced to move to a paid subscription model for some consumers, charging only those who opt out [of tracking techniques] for the same content that everyone else would receive for free."

Which invites us to ask, which would you rather do? Stop online advertisers from tracking your Web browsing even if it means you'd have to pay for some content that you now receive for free? Or keep trading your personal data for free content? Take our poll, leave a comment below, or do both!

Related:

FTC endorses "Do Not Track" option for consumers

Editorial: Privacy and the Web

Editorial: Boosting online privacy

-- Jon Healey

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