Let Them Eat Privacy

Web Advertising and the ConsumerAnother privacy piece on the behavioral ad network business has been launched – this time by The New York Times’ Stephanie Clifford. In her piece entitled, “Ads Follow Web Users, and Get Deeply Personal,” web ads are considered “Orwellian.” Good god. That’s over the top and reminiscent of other recent pieces in the media (like here).

There remains a significant need to explain PII and what anonymous cookie tracking is, and the Chinese Wall between them – and that the sky is not falling on consumers.

Are we going to start “outing” restaurants and gas stations for taking credit cards? I mean what goes on behind the counter, anyway? Aren’t they handling even more potentially threatening, “Orwellian” information? Is the world supposed to be an open and transparent barter system in the eyes of privacy advocates?

  • “Here’s my sack of wheat. I’d like to buy a laptop, please.”
  • “Sir, we don’t offer laptops. We offer the parts. You wouldn’t be able to see inside the laptop after all. We could have a Lo-Jack in there or something.”

The Chinese wall between PII and cookies – the Wall, what is the Wall – is a ripe area for the IAB and the NAI to own and clearly message what it is that is NOT being used. The premise of using data to effect commerce is no different than anything else in our capitalist world which everyone benefits from including the privacy advocates.

Efforts by the IAB and other acronyms are first steps in trying to inform about legitimate privacy concerns. Still, companies like Axciom and Datran Media need to be able to say for articles such as today’s in the NY Times that they follow the clear and precise X, Y and Z guidelines of the IAB/NAI/etc.

If a consumer, the media or the government has a question about how anonymous cookie tracking works, the interactive ad industry should agree on it and then make it available in clear terms. In addition, benefits to web advertising need to be explained and championed such as access to an incredible range of content and services that, unfortunately, many in Congress will never use or understand.

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  1. This blog would do a better service to its readers if it could more honestly confront the data collection practices of the online ad industry, including behavioral targeting. Privacy experts and officials (from US, Canada EU), policymakers (from both political parties), consumer group representatives (from the largest US groups, and journalists are not confabulating the problem. Tracking and profiling user behavior, even without knowing someone’s name or address, raises important privacy and consumer protection concerns. What is required is greater statespersonship from the industry when it comes to privacy and consumer protection.

    • Thanks for commenting, Jeff. Your views are welcome here anytime. As I suggest in the post, the industry needs to clearly define what is happening for all to understand. “Statespersonship” is on the mark.