Will BT Become Too Aggressive for Its Own Good?

Here’s a much discussed article in the NY Times about ad (behavioral) targeting (mostly display):

The Web companies are, in effect, taking the trail of crumbs people leave behind as they move around the Internet, and then analyzing them to anticipate people’s next steps. So anybody who searches for information on such disparate topics as iron supplements, airlines, hotels and soft drinks may see ads for those products and services later on . . .

“When you start to get into the details, it’s scarier than you might suspect,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy rights group. “We’re recording preferences, hopes, worries and fears.”

But executives from the largest Web companies say that privacy fears are misplaced, and that they have policies in place to protect consumers’ names and other personal information from advertisers. Moreover, they say, the data is a boon to consumers, because it makes the ads they see more relevant.

Consumers are largely ignorant about these practices. Whether they object depends on how you frame the question:

    1. Q: Would you like more “relevant” advertising? A: Sure
    2. Q: Do you want Web publishers, search engines and others to track and analyze your online behavior to better target ads to you? A: No

      According to the NY Times article:

      A study of California adults last year found that 85 percent thought sites should not be allowed to track their behavior around the Web to show them ads, according to the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley, which conducted the study.

      On the other side, WebVisible (among others) has documented a consumer preference for “relevant” ads.

      The larger question here is whether the data collection and targeting is going to become so aggressive as to trigger Congressional action. What do you think? Will BT be enlightened and restrained enough to head off regulation or will it charge ahead and compel external intervention?


      Related: AOL aims to be more transparent around its BT practices and wants to educate consumers, using a whimsical approach. Problem is: It will need to come with an opt-out option, which many will take after learning of the targeting practices.

      Here’s more on Jivox from MediaPost.


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