FTC Complaint Targets Google, Microsoft, Yahoo

Online profiling and behavioral targeting practices criticized

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The Center for Digital Democracy, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), and the World Privacy Forum may have just created some problems for Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other companies that deal in online ads.  Together, they submitted a complaint about the companies to the Federal Trade Commission today.

The first part of a 32-page letter stated, "Recent developments in online profiling and behavioral targeting . . . have all contributed to what is now standard practice online.  A vast ecosystem of online advertising and data auctions and exchanges, demand- and supply-side platforms, and the increasing use of third-party data providers that bring offline information to Internet profiling and targeting, operates without the awareness or consent of users."

The complaint then continued, "This massive and stealth data collection apparatus threatens user privacy.  It also robs individual users of the ability to reap the financial benefits of their own data – while publishers, ad exchangers and information brokers (so-called ‘ad optimizers’) profitably cash in on this information."

So the three organizations behind the letter would like to see certain procedures only allowed on an opt-in basis.  There’s a mention of financial compensation for consumers, too, and a few other requests that relate to openness and transparency.

This may not get too far; the manner in which online ads work is indeed standard practice, and regulators don’t seem likely to flip the system on its head after all this time.  Still, all of the companies named in the complaint – and perhaps Google in particular – aren’t liable to enjoy the extra attention from the FTC.

FTC Complaint Targets Google, Microsoft, Yahoo
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  • http://www.rambergmedia.com RMG-News

    I’m not surprised one bit this has been pushed to the FTC. I’m not saying they are right, and the practise should stop, after all it’s a central part of many business’, and as they state has been for quiet some time.

    I guess what bothers me though is the profit making that happens in the selling of this information.
    With this profit making, comes the desire to make more of it, in the most efficient sometimes, not so ethical ways to get our information for the purpose of selling on for profit.
    This is after all, not aggregated data, it’s not anonymous, so how is this data being handled, securely and being sold on?

    I do understand the want and need for targetted advertising, it provides both sides ads which are related, and are more likely to be of interest, and thus more likely to get returns.
    I beleive better regulations should be put in place, I can see both sides of the arguement for and against, so I wouldn’t neccessarily like to see it continue down this path, nor would I want to go away completely.

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