AOL Spreads Its Privacy Education Program
AOL announced a program that will help Internet users understand behaviorally targeted advertising, along with providing mechanisms for opting out of such targeting.
The company estimated it can reach 91 percent of the US Internet audience with its privacy education campaign.
AOL expects to display millions of public service banner ads both on its properties and on the third party sites where its advertising appears.
Their ability to offer an opt-out mechanism stems from the purchase of Tacoda, which AOL acquired earlier in 2007.
This program announcement came just ahead of the start of the Federal Trade Commission’s planned town hall meetings on behavioral targeting, which were planned in response to privacy concerns about Google’s DoubleClick acquisition.
AOL said Tacoda uses a Web cache technique to preserve someone’s opt-out choice even if they delete their browser cookies, something other opt-out systems cannot currently do.
They may offer licenses of the technology on a royalty-free basis for use exclusively in consumer privacy protection programs.
"We want to make the opt-out process as simple and transparent as possible," said Jules Polonetsky, AOL chief privacy officer.
This position should have interesting implications for AOL’s billion-dollar relationship with Google, which provides search and advertising for AOL.
Google could be hard-pressed to explain opposition to using such an opt-out mechanism, unless they have something similar planned for their DoubleClick purchase.
Privacy online became a broader issue this week, as the Federal Trade Commission convened its two-day town hall to discuss behavioral advertising. Google executive Tim Armstrong and a couple of the company’s lawyers were among those on hand to soothe privacy concerns.
Several groups like the Electronic Privacy Information Center oppose Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick on privacy grounds, citing the vast amount of information Google would control about millions of Internet users.