Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Do-Not-Track List: An attempt to kill Behavioral Targeting

An article in AdAge reports that Privacy Groups Propose Do-Not-Track List.

According to the article:

"Demands of these groups would Hinder Marketers' Behavioral-Targeting Practices Online.

Privacy advocates are expected to propose the creation of a do-not-track list, a sort of internet version of the Do Not Call Registry, at a news conference tomorrow.

In addition to the list, the proposal calls for a requirement that advertisers, as part of their online ads, instantaneously disclose details of what they intend to track. According to a media alert announcing the news conference, the groups behind the proposal include the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others.

...Typically, advertisers and online media sellers use web cookies to track and maintain information about online consumers. A cookie might be used to figure out what's in a user's shopping cart on a retail website or to record a user's login for a particular site so that user doesn't have to re-enter a login name and password every time they revisit the site. Cookies can also be used to track surfing behavior and offer up ads based on a user's surfing history.

Thanks to such behavioral-targeting technology, a user looking at a specific type of auto on a car-review site, for example, could be targeted with an ad for that particular make and model even when they move onto a general-interest site. Behavioral targeting tends to create more valuable inventory and be more effective, according to many advertisers and publishers familiar with the technology.

…However, consumer-privacy advocates charge that collecting such information in order to target ads creates "a privacy imbalance that has deprived Americans of the right to control their personal information."

So my questions to these groups are:

  1. If consumer don’t like the irrelevant ads but still prefer free ad-supported content to paid ad-free content, how are these groups going to provide that?

  2. How are they going to create Do Not Target list without (Personally Identifiable Information) PII information?
    1. One solution is used by NAI, that is to drop a cookie to indicate that user should not be tracked. But if a user deletes NAI cookie then the user is back in “Do-Track” list since most of the targeting solutions are “Opt-Out’ systems (user is opted-in by default).

    2. Another solution is to create a universal cookie that might be able to get by without any PII information but who is going to maintain that? Google? Microsoft? Yahoo?(Just Kidding)

  3. Is anonymous tracking really a privacy concern? Do consumers really care about Privacy? Or is this mostly a concern of these groups? Anonymous cookie tracking is still better than what these users provide online to the social networking sites. Look at facebook.com, myspace.com where users voluntarily provide information everyday about their whereabouts, likes, dislikes, friends etc.

In my previous posts concerning privacy I proposed that Behavioral Targeting should be “Opt-In” instead of “Opt-out”, let the users make a call if they would like to be tracked to see more relevant ads.

Here is what wrote
"I believe that if consumers are provided proper education (I will write about consumer benefits in one of my future posts) than they can in fact benefit from Behavioral Targeting. It will be a win-win situation for all the parties involved. Proper education and disclosures by advertisers, publishers and networks will ease the concerns regarding Behavioral Targeting. Consumers have the right to opt out of Behavioral Targeting but what is lacking is proper education on how to do so. The networks currently opt-in users by default; however, in my opinion the proper process should be opt-out by default and opt-in if user chooses to opt-in, just like we do for emails and newsletters. This process will move the burden from users to the advertisers, publishers and networks.

In short run this could result in a lower reach for BT providers. But if the benefits to consumers are properly stated then most of the consumers will be willing to participate. If you (network or advertiser) tell a consumer that he/she does not need to go looking for deals or offers of products/services that he/she is in the market for, these deals/offers will be provided to him/her based on her online behavior no matter where in the network she is in, I think consumer will love it. If a consumer knows the process and she knows that she is willingly participating in the BT, the click-through rate on the ads will be higher too. Why force users into Behavioral Targeting and raise privacy concerns when you can offer them what they want (when they want) and make them your raving fans."


1 comment:

  1. Hi Anil,
    I often read your articles on your blogs!
    I think you're absolutely right!
    First of all, without ads we wouldn't have free contents....and it's obvious that people prefer free ad based contents on the net to paid contents...
    and you're right that BT could rise up the ctr of the ads...I'm uncertain about the trust that web surfers could give to the networks asking them to provide informations and accept cookies to deliver better ads...I don't know if people could accept this, we should make a very good job to make them trust on this...

    Claudio Bontempi


I would like to hear your comments and questions.