Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Opting In and Out of Behavioral Targeting

Behavioral targeting (BT) displays a particular creative or rich content based on the sites in the network the viewer has visited and what actions the viewer has performed on those websites.

Privacy concerns came to the forefront last year when several major search engines were asked to turn over information to the FTC. A survey found that a full 65 percent of respondents oppose monitoring the Internet use of Ordinary Americans by the government. This concern also extended to ask: "what exact information do the search engines store on users?"

Behavioral Targeting is becoming more important each day. Not only to advertisers but also to the users of particular sites. Much has been written about BT, but the only ones who seem to understand it are the advertisers and ad networks. The consumer, on the other hand, is left to wonder exactly what BT is and how it affects them.

Roy Shkedi, CEO of post-search BT network AlmondNet:
. . . recently proposed a common practice whereby every ad served by a BT network offers the opportunity to opt-out of behavioral tracking. Shkedi thinks the process could be an opportunity to assuage consumer worries about privacy, but at the same time educate them about the real benefits of opting in.
For example, if a person sees a banner advertisement that they do not wish to see again, they click a hotspot on the banner, which takes them to an opt-out page. The opt-out page explains that this advertising was sponsored by X-network and that if they do not want to see any ads served by X-network, then opt-out. Hopefully, users should be able to opt-out of categories, (such as advertising for adult sites, male-enhancement products, and fat burner pills).

Tacoda, Inc. recently launched a Consumer Choice campaign across its network that explains behavioral targeting and gives users the opportunity for opting out of the system. Tacoda, Inc. follows the The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) principles for capture and use of consumer preferences, including notice and providing either opt-in or opt-out. These principles have been endorsed by the Federal Trade Commission.

CEO Curt Viebranz explains Tacoda's proactive approach to the privacy issue:
. . . provide all consumers with robust notice of the types of anonymous information that Tacoda captures, what we do with that information, and a direct "opt-out" link. . . . to the Tacoda Web site, where we describe our business and the benefits of targeted advertising. They can then choose to opt-out and get taken to the NAI Web site.
Bill Gossman, CEO, Revenue Science, is not worrying about a backlash over privacy and behavioral tracking:
Revenue Science belongs to and conforms to the standards of the Network Advertising Initiative, which enables consumers to opt out of having their behavior tracked by our technology. They can obtain an "opt-out cookie" to prevent any data from being associated with their browser.
Advertisers want to send their message to large groups of people who have exhibited enough qualifying behaviors to indicate interest in a product category or brand. They are not interested in detailed information on each one of those individuals. Likewise, most of the consumers are not interested in knowing exactly which advertisers is associated with which ad and how the information is used. They are, however, more comfortable with behavioral targeting because it improves their online experience.

Bill Gossman, CEO, Revenue Science:
What we do not want to see is consumers having to make an opt-out choice on every ad served. Nor does it mean weakening the sophistication of the technology. Part of BT is delivering a better online experience to people and ensuring that media remains free.

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Steve Jones said...

I don't think that it is necessary to have people opt out of getting certain advertisements (and I don't think people will bother anyway) but I do think that website owners should be stopped from putting cookies on your computer which track your internet behaviour.

Devin Thayer said...

If there are serious privacy risks in using ads, I would commend AlmondNet for doing as they have done. If not, then they are merely satisfying the crowd of the highly anxious. I don't see why this creeps people out if they have nothing to hide.


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