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Just An Online Minute... Marketing Execs Puzzle Over Privacy Issues

When it comes to online privacy, predicting just how much data the typical consumer is willing to give up is proving to be a daunting task. But, thanks to Facebook, the industry now knows at least one type of program that won't fly with consumers.

That was the conclusion of online marketing executives who addressed the issue at the AlwaysOn Media conference in New York this week.

"You don't want your friends to know what you bought your wife for Christmas," Bob Dykes, CEO of NebuAd, said of Facebook's badly received Beacon program. That platform, launched in November, informed Facebook users about their friends' purchases and other online activity. After four weeks of user protests, the company changed the program to make it opt-in only.

NebuAds itself, however, has come in for criticism from privacy advocates for its behavioral targeting platform, which draws on data from Internet service providers to combine users' search queries with data about their Web surfing history. Dykes says that the company users the data to segment users into different marketing buckets, but doesn't personally identify any users. But privacy advocates are skeptical, in part because people's search queries often give away their identities.

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Meanwhile, it doesn't seem like we've heard the last about Beacon. Despite the rocky start, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said recently that the company plans to relaunch it. Several days ago, in a talk with blogger Robert Scoble at Davos, Zuckerberg apparently hinted that Beacon 2.0 was on the way. "He admitted to me that he had made mistakes in how they implemented Beacon and explained it," Scoble wrote. "Watch for him to come back with a new Beacon and a much better explanation."

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