Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Privacy of Online Data – Debate Continues

Today a U.S. Senate committee summoned representatives of several internet companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook and also NebuAd, and expressed its concerns about the user privacy resulting from online data collection and targeting. (Source: LATimes)

This committee was led by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D- North Dakota), who said "I don’t have the foggiest idea who's tracking it, how they’re tracking it, how they might use it, whether that company has some scruples and might be very careful about how it handles it, or whether it's somebody else who grabs a hold of it…. There are so many unanswered questions about information on how people navigate this Web."

NebuAd and ISP based Behavioral Targeting

NebuAd, which has been on the hot seat lately, defended its position by maintaining that it does not violate the privacy of the consumer as it strips out any personally identifiable information from the data it uses.
"NebuAd’s systems are designed so that no one, not even the government, can determine the identity of our users", Dykes, CEO of NebuAd said. "We do not collect or use personally identifiable information. … We do not store raw data linked to identifiable individuals. And we provide state-of-the-art security for the limited amount of information we do store."

But Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the increasingly detailed profiles NebuAd and other companies keep could be linked to specific people.

Senators Understand the Benefits of Online Advertising

Dorgan and other senators said that they understand the benefits of online advertising. Their worries are with the security of the data used to deliver those ads.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said "We're not against advertising on the Internet, but the issue is, as it becomes more sophisticated, do we have a role here to play in making sure that consumers' privacy is protected as companies develop more technology and are able to dig deeper into that information?"

And...debate continues….


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