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Monday, April 28, 2008


Picking up where we left off in the last post on the invasiveness of behavioral marketing (AKA predictive modeling/target advertising), the position of Internet marketers, and other junk mailers as well, is that you, the consumer, want to receive more advertising in keeping with your interests. The question that arises is whether or not you are willing to give up your right to privacy in return?

I take the position that you should not be singled out individually putting all your personal data in the mix to get you that perfect ad. And there is a way to accomplish this by the advertiser focusing on aggregate households of 300 to 500 with the same demographic and lifestyle profiles, resulting in the same goal. Some marketers are even satisfied to work at the zip code level containing 2,500 to 3,000 households, but all of this becomes irrelevant in today’s methods since the individual household data must be used to create the groupings of zips.

You could solve the problem by creating an anonymous geographic cluster, but wait; doesn’t that also require the use of individual private information? The answer, of course, is yes. So what is the solution? Give consumers control over their names and personal data, and let them opt in to its use in situations such as this. Mission accomplished for business and the name-holder.

In yesterday’s post, the two companies working on systems to track every move that the Internet user performs as he or she surfs, is supposedly employing anonymous private information. But according to Saul Hansell of The New York Times, there were “a lot of questions he [Robt. Dykes, CEO NebuAd] wouldn’t answer.” Among them, not revealing the Internet service providers or Web sites he is working with, and he declined to identify what information he uses to determine how the ISP changes your address, both of which impact on what is being used to identify you.

Hansell also echoes my concern that, although personal data isn’t involved now, it could be at any time.

TRUSTe, the Internet version of the “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval, in a study conducted by global market insight and information group TNS, says: “Overall results indicate a high level of awareness that internet activities are being tracked for purposes of targeting advertising, and a high level of concern associated with that tracking, even when it isn’t associated with personally identifiable information.” This from Internet users asked about their reactions to behavioral targeting.

In the results from the survey, “71 percent of online consumers are aware that their browsing information may be collected by a third party for advertising purposes, but only 40 percent are familiar with the term ‘behavioral targeting.’ 57 percent of respondents say they are not comfortable with advertisers using that browsing history to serve relevant ads, even when that information cannot be tied to their names or any other personal information.”

“An overwhelming majority (91 percent) of respondents expressed willingness to take necessary steps to assure increased privacy online when presented with the tools to control their internet tracking and advertising experience…” I have placed the last sentence in bold type for emphasis on what the public is obviously willing to do to protect their privacy on the Internet. It confirms to me the willingness of the American consumer to take control over their names and personal data in all situations when granted that right. If only business, government agencies and Congress would realize that.

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