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Privacy Wins Some, Loses Some

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A European legal body has declared that ISPs who employ ad-serving technology from Phorm must do so on an opt-in basis, or risk violating UK and EU data protection laws. The move follows several months of controversy over the startup’s plans to broadly track the surfing habits of users and serve ads against them. While the system doesn’t seem terribly insidious, it is something that could quickly infringe privacy without setting off alarms.

It’s an issue another stateside company seeking to target ads to web users based on their surfing habits — NebuAd — is dealing with as well. And the proliferation of such companies is getting the attention of the FTC, which on Friday closed the public comment period related to regulating behavioral advertising. Unsurprisingly, industry members wanted less regulatory oversight; privacy groups, on the other hand, asked for less data retention, more transparency about data collection practices, and for such advertising to be done on an opt-in basis so that consumers are made aware that their web usage is being mined for advertising.

However, in this era of governments spying on citizens combined with the need to monetize all these nifty free online services through advertising, it’s unlikely that the FTC will get too heavy with the regulations. The demands of national security and Internet commerce are conspiring against privacy, and the consumer seems to be getting short shrift.

4 Responses to “Privacy Wins Some, Loses Some”

  1. Oar Wellin

    ‘While the system doesn’t seem terribly insidious’


    Being wire tapped at your ISP not insidious?

    Your whole click stream ripped off and sold?

    What does it take to make you use the word ‘insidious’ about the web Stacey?

  2. The consumer doesn’t get “short shrift.” The Internet is a commercial venture. You pay to get access, and you pay for the content or support it by consuming advertisements.

    Every night thousands of workers carry laptops into the streets bearing consumers’ social security numbers, etc. Yet people want the government to block ISPs et al. from tracking nonidentifying information.

    The paranoia boggles the mind.

  3. The consumer doesn’t get “short shrift.” The Internet is a commercial venture. You pay to get on, and you either pay for content or support it via advertising.

    And every night, thousands of people take their laptops out onto the street containing consumers’ social security numbers, etc. And no one blinks.

    The paranoia surrounding this issue boggles the mind.