Creepy Advertising, the FTC, and stuff

The Interactive Advertising Bureau launched a public service ad campaign last week alerting and educating the public about behavioral targeting.  The ads include copy that says that “advertising is creepy” and “This banner ad can tell where you live.”  Internet publishers including Micosoft, YouTube and AOL have committed to donate impressions for the initiative.  YouTube? Really?  Right away one’s hackles rise up.  Because if Google, which after all makes its money from creepy advertising and data collection, is giving to this cause, how much of a public service is this thing?  The FTC has chastised the industry for using unreadable privacy policies to inform consumers about behavioral targeting. The IAB says that it is trying to make it all much clearer to the public, by explaining what cookies do, and what geo-targeting is, for example.  But they are also saying that cookies and IP addresses do not give marketers personal information – a fact that has consistently proved to be erroneous.  The FTC itself said this year in a report about online behavioral targeting that non-personally identifiable information could be used to identify specific users. (via AdAge)

Separately, says MediaPost,

 the digital rights group Center for Democracy & Technology also launched a privacy campaign on Thursday — although with a different goal. The CDT is hoping to persuade users to lobby Congress for online privacy legislation. The Web site for the CDT’s “Take Back Your Privacy” campaign enables users to submit concerns directly to the FTC and to send emails to their lawmakers.

This is all very timely, since the FTC had a roundtable meeting this week about online privacy issues. The organization says that this roundtable is meant to

explore the privacy challenges posed by the vast array of 21st century technology and business practices that collect and use consumer data. Such practices include social networking, cloud computing, online behavioral advertising, mobile marketing, and the collection and use of information by retailers, data brokers, third-party applications, and other diverse businesses. The goal of the roundtables is to determine how best to protect consumer privacy while supporting beneficial uses of the information and technological innovation.

 At the same time, a report by market research firm Synovate, set out to see how people actually feel about having their information monitored in return for relevant advertising, which is the whole sell for BT advocates. The study found that close to a third of Americans would not mind having their web and TV habits monitored as long as they received relevant advertising AND as long as they couldn’t be personally identified.  So, we want to have it both ways.  This is about the same number (35%) who said that they would “reject such technology because they would be concerned about monitoring services collecting data about them”. 8% would be open to it with no restrictions.  The study also showed that people are doing what they can to avoid advertising altogether.  41% say that they more often avoid sites with pop-up ads, 44% skip ads more frequently than they used to when watching television. (via MediaPost)


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