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Pandora’s nervousness about ‘do-not-track’ rules

Over the last week I’ve written several articles about Pandora’s plan to go public and its detailed assessment of the risks in its Security and Exchange Commission S-1 form. A brief summary is posted here. A longer version is posted at Ars Technica. In the latter article, I reviewed Pandora’s concerns about copyright royalties, the streamer’s dependence on Google’s  DoubleClick ad service, and its assessment of the competition.

But Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy noticed an interesting comment in the filing that I missed.

“Existing privacy-related laws and regulations are evolving and subject to potentially differing interpretations, and various federal and state legislative and regulatory bodies may expand current or enact new laws regarding privacy and data security-related matters,” Pandora notes.

We may also be required to expend significant resources to adapt to these changes and to develop new ways to deliver relevant advertising or otherwise provide value to our advertisers. In particular, government regulators have proposed ‘do not track’ mechanisms, and requirements that users affirmatively ‘opt-in’ to certain types of data collection that, if enacted into law or adopted by self-regulatory bodies or as part of industry standards, could significantly hinder our ability to collect and use data relating to listeners. Restrictions on our ability to collect, access and harness listener data, or to use or disclose listener data or any profiles that we develop using such data, would in turn limit our ability to stream personalized music content to our listeners and offer targeted advertising opportunities to our advertising customers, each of which are critical to the success of our business.

Indeed, the government seems to be quite serious about this ‘do not track’ mechanism business, although such an enforcement could ultimately depend on Congress, and that could take a while. Anyway, no surprise that Pandora, like so many online content providers, is watching this discussion with interest.

I’ve posted a YouTube video above that seems to learn towards the advertiser’s perspective on the issue. Here’s a PBS debate on do-not-track as well.

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