Thursday, November 02, 2006

Privacy advocates go after online ad networks

Two consumer and privacy advocacy groups have petitioned the US Federal Trade Commission to go after online advertising networks for using more sophisticated techniques to track consumers. From Earthweb:

Ad Networks Violating Privacy?:

Two consumer advocacy groups want the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate alleged unfair and deceptive practices by Internet advertising networks.

In a joint filing Wednesday, the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) claim current privacy disclosure statements are inadequate in light of increasingly sophisticated data-collection techniques.

'They [ad networks] are unleashing powerful new tools without the conscious awareness of consumers,' CDD Executive Director Jeff Chester told 'There needs to be some meaningful consumer safeguards.'

While most companies and networks collect only non-personally identifiable information from users, the filing claims unprecedented amounts of data are being collected and associated with each unique visit to a Web site.

'Current privacy disclosure policies are totally inadequate, failing to effectively inform users how and what data are being collected and used,' the filing states.

Techniques cited in the filing include Web analytics, behavioral targeting, 'virtual reality' media, data mining and audience targeting and tracking.

Collectively, CDD and U.S. PIRG contend, the new techniques are creating a new online environment in which 'engagement gives way to entrapment' and 'personalization impinges on privacy.'

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