IPv6 To Profile Behavior

Google, Microsoft, Bing, and others expect June 8, 2011 (today), also known as IPv6 Day, to go off without a hitch. This is the day more than 400 companies will test the ability to send packets of information and data signals across Web sites and nodes, seamlessly.

Previously the Internet ran on Internet Protocol version 4. But with so many connected devices that require an IP address, the Internet is running out. No IP address; no connection. So, engineers and scientists have been working for years to transition to the next generation Internet protocol, IPv6.

I wrote an article on the topic back in May 2006, citing research firm IDC's estimate that by 2012 the Internet would support about 17 billion devices, extinguishing the addresses required to connect them. Back them, Frost & Sullivan's principal analyst Sam Masud told me that by "2012, that's when we estimate the world will be out of IPv4 addresses," no exaggeration.

What I didn't know at the time is how IPv6 would have the ability to profile Internet behavior to more accurately target online ads.



So, why should brands that rely on online ad targeting, and companies building online ad-targeting products, care? IPv6 will change behavioral targeting in ways most won't or can't talk about -- because they really don't know.

IPv6 could likely require companies to go back to the drawing board and renegotiate privacy laws with the FTC because of the ability to identify more granular data collected through ad targeting.

The new protocol offers an infinite number of addresses, so many that each device in the entire world can have its own. Think of the address as a unique identifier. This means advertisers will have the ability to identify the specific device, location and more. No longer will devices from one location or block be clumped together as the signals go through the Internet gateway.

When that happens, the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 will have a significant impact on the online advertising industry including faster speeds when serving up ads. Most executives in the online advertising space have yet to realize or understand its impact. Google, Microsoft, Bing, and Facebook execs working to make the transition a success already know the benefits to search and the benefits to ad targeting.

3 comments about "IPv6 To Profile Behavior".
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  1. John Jainschigg from World2Worlds, Inc., June 8, 2011 at 5:11 p.m.

    I'm not sure I understand.

    First, through the next N years, the internet will be running IPv4 and v6 in tandem, mostly via dual-stack equipment, and in some cases, via carrier-grade Network Address Translation. This is not likely to clarify the relation between an IP address and a user, and may involve even more ways for that relationship to be made ambiguous than we encounter today.

    Second, though the use of Stateless Address Auto-Configuration (SLAAC) in IPv6 does expose a device MAC in the typical formulation of an extended 64-bit UID, and although this UID is potentially usable for tracking, privacy extensions already available for Microsoft and other operating systems obscure this data, and oncoming technologies like Moving Target Defense (MT6D) provide for full anonymity both for clients and servers. This stuff will likely be standard on all client equipment; including smartphones (or rather on the internet-standard successor technologies that replace smartphones, and the open transmission systems that replace 4G).

    So -- or so it seems to me -- what's more likely to happen is that targetability will be gradually eroded everywhere. Have I missed something?

  2. Cynthia Larose from Mintz Levin, June 9, 2011 at 12:27 p.m.

    "Renegotiate privacy laws with the SEC"? The Securities and Exchange Commission? I think I am also missing something here.

  3. Jason Lynn from interclick, June 9, 2011 at 1:30 p.m.

    Most firms do not explicitly use IP addresses for OBA.

    There are a few reasons reasons for this - 1)the privacy implications of mapping IP to users 2) IP targeting lists are notoriously difficult to maintain 3) since IPv4 addresses are not 1-to1 matches in many cases, their usefulness in OBA is very uneven. 4) Most importantly, targeting 1-to1 is extremely inefficient for media businesses. The major problem in OBA is not getting granular enough, but actually creating large enough audiences to be useful in a marketing strategy.

    The general use of IP is for geo targeting purposes, where the IP address is mapped to a DMA or ZIP code using a mapping provider database such as IPv6 will have the most immediate impact there. Most targeting companies will just refresh their databases and be done with it. If anything, it should make geo targeting more accurate, but this is largely not considered OBA.

    From a privacy standpoint, most reputable firms are moving away from granular device profiling with out opt-in (as with mobile apps). I think most privacy officers understand that IP addresses are a gray area already and are taking steps to decouple IP from anonymous user level data. This really shouldn't be a major shift for most of the firms that are currently using OBA.

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