Five weeks ago I caught a Forbes article, "The Looming Battle Over Targeted Ads," informatively written by Evan Hessel. He divided his assessment of the online targeted ads debate into four categories, which I paraphrase liberally:
How Targeting Is Currently Regulated
Transparency and Consumer Control: web sites have to tell customers what type of data they are collecting and how it will be used as well as giving them the choice of opting out of data collection.
Data Security: companies can only retain user data as long as it fulfills a legitimate business purpose while concurrently protecting it from falling into unauthorized hands.
Consent for Policy Changes: if a company decides to change the way it exploits previously collected user data, it must notify users in advance.
Consent for "Sensitive Data": companies must obtain prior consent from users before collecting sensitive personal information - though what is "sensitive" is not clearly defined by the FTC.
What Privacy Advocates Want
Regulation: legislation regulating online privacy that formalizes and expands the FTC's current recommended principles.
Privacy Information: to ban companies obtaining privacy information such as data about health, finances, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, personal relationship or political activity.
Personal Data: regulation that forces sites and data collection firms to specify what the personal and behavioral data volunteered by users will be used for at the time of collection and provide users an easy mechanism to block data gathering.
Disclosure: legislation requiring increased disclosure of behavioral tracking in the form of registration in a database at the FTC as well as enabling consumers to obtain all information utilized by targeter.
What Publishers Want
Regulation: opposition to the establishment of actual laws regulating behavioral targeting in favor of self regulation.
Opting Out: consumers should utilize controls on their web browsers and/or purchase, at their own expense, additional software to block the web site's collection of user information.
Data Usage: oppose calls to ban changes to data use policies without user consent. Web sites should be able to change their policies regarding privacy and user data without consent as long as users were previously advised that changes could take place.
Sensitive Data: oppose the privacy advocates' calls to outlaw the collection of sensitive data (personal medical conditions, financial situations and politics...) without consent as long as the information is not attributed to a specific person's name.
What Advertising Tech Companies Want
Regulation: opposition to formal laws on targeting in favor of self-regulation.
Sensitive Data: against a ban on collection of non-personally attributed information pertaining to medical issues, personal politics, politics....
As the debate continues over privacy and the utilization of information (sometimes sensitive and sometimes not - though who is to know for sure) for marketing and targeting and as monolithic entities, trade organizations and politicos are haggling over the future usage of my social security, all I can say is:
is there anybody out there
just nod if you can hear me
is there anyone at home."
Mr. & Mrs. Floyd and their 13-year-old son, Zach