BT in the Crosshairs

Picture 29For some time I’ve been anticipating regulation to be imposed on behavioral targeting (and possibly more broadly on Internet advertising). The the AP reported yesterday:

Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, is drafting a bill that would impose broad new rules on Web sites and advertisers. His goal: to ensure that consumers know what information is being collected about them on the Web and how it is being used, and to give them control over that information.

The only questions in my mind are:

  • How much of a burden will any new rules impose on search engines, publishers and marketers?
  • Will it require opt-in or opt-out?
  • Will there be the equivalent of a “do not track” list?

Any bill that eventually passes will be a compromise but it will place burdens on Internet advertising that don’t currently exist. Consumers don’t necessarily clearly see the relationships between tracking, cookies and ad relevance. And even though they only want “relevant” ads, they also don’t want to be tracked.

The biggest losers could be social networks if they have to allow people to opt out of all ad targeting. Precision targeting is what social networks have to offer marketers. If that’s taken away — and I would immediately opt out myself — they’ll have nothing left to offer except broad, vague reach.

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