So incensed with my accusation that many publishers abuse consumer privacy, he resorted to ad hominem attacks, going so far as to accuse me of "conning my readers."
Sadly, ignoring his bluster, Mr. Rothenberg is just doing his job.
A Vehicle for Influence
The IAB is an association of 375 media and technology companies whose livelihood depends on advertising, much like many of the readers of Online Publishing Insider. These publishers pay dues every year to keep Mr. Rothenberg gainfully employed defending their interests.
One of the primary missions of the IAB, as stated on its Web site, is to "fend off adverse legislation and regulation." As Mr. Rothenberg pointed out in his article, IAB members have testified before the House of Representatives and the FTC, and visited more than 50 congressional offices in support of their goals. They even released a study to show the economic impact of the online advertising industry.
These companies have an obligation to their shareholders to do anything within the confines of the law to maximize shareholder value. Lobbying to prevent laws that are not in their best interest is well within their rights.
He Doth Protest Too Much
As a capitalist, I take no issue with the IAB's efforts to curry favor.
As a consumer, however, I find it incredibly ironic that the proposed solution to publishers invading consumers' privacy is to have those very same publishers advertise to them about how to protect it.
I trust every publisher to protect my privacy as much as I trust every banker to not take risk.
The self-regulation "principles," and "guidelines," lack the sting of a jail sentence. With hundreds of thousands of Web sites in the U.S. alone, there is no way to effectively self-regulate the whole industry. The impact of abuse is so great that there needs to be a legal framework to dissuade bad behavior.
At the end of the day, it is crazy for a publisher -- which makes its money by selling user attention and user information -- to be tasked with protecting the privacy of those very same users.
This is not a complex issue; it is purely common sense. All the statistics and rhetoric Mr. Rothenberg offered up only serve to obfuscate the basic problem: publishers should not be the ones protecting user privacy. There is a fundamental conflict of interest that cannot be resolved with self-regulation or lobbying.
Since Mr. Rothenberg gets paid to advance the agenda of publishers, I am formally offering him the opportunity to earn his keep, by debating the issue of consumer privacy with me live at an upcoming MediaPost event.
How about it, Mr. Rothenberg, are you up to the challenge?
You bring the statistics; I'll bring the common sense.