Analytics Grade: B

Like the Mozilla option, the level of effort to set the plug-in is likely more than most users want to do. In its current form, this should have little impact on Web analytics.

3. Microsoft (Internet Explorer)

Microsoft’s method of dealing with this issue is more flexible, or more confusing than its competitors from a consumer perspective. Microsoft’s intends IE9 to include both an ‘Opt-In’ option for users as well as a set of opt-out lists in its Tracking Protection feature. This is somewhat similar to the Google Chrome solution, but for one significant difference, you can de-select marketing organizations whose advertising you’d like to see.

Where the concept starts to fray from our perspective is in the development of these lists. Anyone can develop a list and provide it for others to use. Envision hundreds of lists that one can choose from. We envision a nice little cottage industry of list consultants who tailor one just for your needs or someone who can vet lists and make recommendations.

Privacy Grade: C-

Microsoft's approach sounds good on paper, but the use of the solution by many could be a stretch. If it does catch on, this would create the greatest level of privacy and user control of the three browsers and would also enable the user to see the benefit of being tracked by entering into an agreement with the site itself. The upside to this is that marketing is more targeted and efficient, sending offers only to prospects with a high conversion rate.

Analytics Grade: B-

Like the Mozilla and Chrome options, the level of effort to set list options could be too many and too confusing with only savvy users spending the time to opt-in or out, thereby having little influence on data collection.

Is It the Beginning of the End of Web Analytics as We Know It?

Maybe, if these solutions mature and become viable. However, as we’ve pointed out in our assessment, the current convoluted nature of this crop of options will likely be too much work for most consumers.

Will more folks opt out of tracking? Perhaps, but by how much? Will it really have such a huge impact? Hard to say. And ultimately, what tracking will an opt-out option target? It seems clear by the FTC language that the target is online advertisers, not websites themselves.

Of course, it seems possible that browser based solutions may end up making first party marketing collateral damage. Providing more opt-out options for users increases the chances that you’ll collect less information, but isn’t it possible that these were the people who weren’t highly qualified visitors anyway?

Of course, creating more convoluted ways to enable opt-out or control is also going to confuse site visitors more thoroughly than before. Now, in addition to legalese strewn privacy policies, site visitors will have a myriad number of ways to define opt out…not only from their browsers, but from ad networks, as is already the case on Yahoo Ad Networks and in line with efforts by associations such as the Digital Advertising Alliance.

Perhaps this self selection actually helps you qualify valuable visitors. And, if this is the case, then instead of spending so much time on trying to figure out what the anonymous visitors do, you focus on what the qualified visitors are doing, and in turn, what caused them to become registered. Maybe you need to offer more and better incentives to register. People will give you their information if you give them something in return. There's nothing new about this, but all opt in does is force you to come up with innovative ideas to capture data.