Just as the FTC prepares to look into calls for a “don’t target list” for online consumers, AOL (NYSE: TWX) is creating its own system that will let users avoid targeted ads on its sites, the NYT reports. AOL’s system should be ready by the end of the year. The site AOL’s establishing will offer links to “opt-out lists” run by other online ad networks.
In return for its altruism, AOL’s site will try to convince users to submit some personal information with the promise of getting targeted by ads for items and services that might interest them, in the same way that Netflix, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and iTunes offer users recommendations based on a previous set of choices. While it might appear that AOL was going out on a limb, it’s actually just picking up the call that Tacoda, the behavior targeting firm it bought for $275 million in July, has been making for the past year. The Time Warner unit will have a chance to see whether it has struck the right balance at an industry event held by the FTC on Thursday and Friday. AOL will be joined by representatives from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and an assortment of behavioral targeting experts.
Despite the pleas from consumer advocates for the FTC to set up a formal “do not call list” for online, similar to the list the FTC uses to oversee telemarketers, federal regulators appear reluctant to police the web in this area, as opposed to other online ad-related issues like lead generation and the increased M&A activity involving digital ad shops over the past year. Nevertheless, Eileen Harrington, the FTC’s deputy director for the Bureau of Consumer Protection, tells the Times that the agency hasn’t reached any conclusions on taking action on behavioral targeting.