Consumer Groups Ask FTC To Investigate Online Ad Practices

Two consumer groups are asking the FTC to investigate the online advertising practices of Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and others, claiming they violate user privacy. In a 50-page complaint, the Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group take issue with efforts to monitor consumer behavior so that advertisers can better target their marketing messages: “The data collection and interactive marketing system that is shaping the entire U.S, electronic marketplace is being built to agressively attack us wherever we go, creating profiles to be used in ever-more sophisticated and personalized ‘one-to-one’ targeting schemes. Unfortunately, over the last several years, the FTC has largely ignored the critical developments of the electronic marketplace that have placed the privacy of every American at risk.”
The groups single out Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. However, they are especially critical of Microsoft’s adCenter platform, being pitched for its ability to specifically target particular groups of consumers and they call the company’s use of information gleaned form its Hotmail email service “particularly disturbing.” The groups urged the FTC to stop these practices and called for federal legislation to be enacted.
Google, Yahoo and Microsoft officials told The Washington Post that they take user privacy seriously. That of course is a predictable statement from the companies, who you can bet will fight hard against any efforts to limit their abilities to target consumers — one of their big selling points to advertisers.