Commentary

Can WPP Demystify Behavioral Targeting?

The think tank Future of Privacy Forum announced this week that it tapped ad agency WPP to come up with new ways of notifying Web users about online behavioral advertising.

Director Jules Polonetsky hopes that advertising creatives will be able to come up with something more intelligible than the lengthy jargon-filled policies that are all too often incomprehensible. Federal Trade Commission Chair Jon Leibowitz, who has urged Web companies to provide clear and succinct notice about ad targeting, is cheering the project. "I'm very heartened with what the Future of Privacy Forum has announced," he tells MediaPost. "Most current online privacy policies are essentially incomprehensible for even the savviest online users."

Today, companies and industry groups use still pepper their privacy policies with terms like "preference-based marketing," "personally identifiable information," "third-party cookies," etc.

It's clear that many Web users have no idea what these terms mean. What's more, even within the industry there's significant debate about, say, what should be considered "personally identifiable information."

Besides, the last thing people want to do when surfing the Web is read a 5,000-word document about privacy. At the same time, it's critical to inform consumers about online data collection. Before people can meaningfully consent to behavioral targeting, they need to first know what it is.

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1 comment about "Can WPP Demystify Behavioral Targeting? ".
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  1. Malcolm Rasala, May 21, 2009 at 1:13 a.m.

    Behavioural targeting is a step too far. Who wants their web activity tracked? Who wants their private emails read?
    Who wants to be spammed by shoals of advertising messages? Nobody. Period. No one has the moral or legal right to read my/your private web activity. It is private. The notion that advertisers (or their 3rd party agents) have this right is obscene. Privacy is privacy. Advertising is acceptable...in its place. Nobody but nobody wants even more advertising. It is becoming a desease. And most of it as most people know is nonsense. Most people know this. And most people do not want behavioural targeting companies using private web activity.

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