Advertisers face resistance to on-line tracking

Nov 08, 2009 by Daniel Silva
Customers are seen surfing the internet at an internet bar. Campaigners are stepping up efforts to curb online tracking of Internet use by firms that deliver adverts tailored to the specific interests of consumers, as polls reveal widespread unease with the practice.

Campaigners are stepping up efforts to curb online tracking of Internet use by firms that deliver adverts tailored to the specific interests of consumers, as polls reveal widespread unease with the practice.

Corporations have always collected personal data on the people who buy their products but in the past this information came from sources such as magazine subscriptions and warranty cards, experts at a three-day privacy conference that wrapped up Friday in Madrid said.

Now it is flowing at breakneck speed into databases from multiple online sources, from dating services to newspaper websites, giving companies the unprecedented power to create detailed profiles of their customers, in many cases without their being aware of it, they added.

"There are so many grey areas in that if the end user knew about it all, it would make their hair grey," said Jorg Polakiewicz, the head of the law reform department at the Council of Europe, a European rights watchdog.

The body is working on a new legal instrument on consumer profiling that it hopes will assist its 47 member states to better protect individuals from abuses, he added. So far only a few member states have legislation in place.

In the United States, Rick Boucher, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, announced in September that he planned to introduce privacy legislation to regulate this so-called behavioral targeting of consumers.

The move towards greater regulation comes as surveys in the United States and Europe show that a majority of consumers on both sides of the Atlantic are against corporations are monitoring their Internet use for marketing purposes.

Two-thirds of Americans object to targeted online ads, according to one of the first independent survey to examine the issue carried out by the University of California and University of Pennsylvania and published last month.

In the European Union 60 percent of people are concerned about the commercial use of data, according to a European Commission survey carried out in April, said Willemien Bax, the deputy director general of European Consumers' Organization BEUC which is pushing for tougher restrictions.

"It is very important that consumers are firmly in control of their personal data. I think it is unacceptable that our profiles are built up and we cannot see what they are," she said.

Some major corporations have reacted to the concerns by imposing their own limits on the use of online tracking of consumers.

Visitors to Web pages belonging to Procter & Gamble, the world's largest household products maker, "must opt in to have an online relationship" with the company, according to the firm's global privacy executive, Sandra R. Hughes.

The company also has set up a privacy education Web page and it provides consumers with examples of what kind of adverts and discounts they will receive if they agree to provide personal details.

But Jeffrey Chester, the executive director and founder of the Center for Digital Democracy, a US consumer watchdog group, said such efforts to self-regulate are largely a failure and stricter legal safeguards are needed.

"Self-regulatory schemes are inadequate, they fail to address the key issues," he said.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Congress weighs landmark change in Web ad privacy

Sep 07, 2009

(AP) -- The Web sites we visit, the online links we click, the search queries we conduct, the products we put in virtual shopping carts, the personal details we reveal on social networking pages - all of this can give companies ...

Microsoft calls for federal privacy law

Nov 04, 2005

Microsoft Corp. on Thursday called for uniform federal legislation to replace an inconsistent "patchwork of laws" currently in place to protect the privacy of Internet users.

Report: Widespread data sharing, 'Web bugs'

Jun 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Information released a report late Monday (June 1) showing that the most popular Web sites in the United States all share ...

Congress concerned about privacy over cable TV ads (Update)

Apr 23, 2009

(AP) -- Congress put cable TV operators on notice that it will scrutinize their plans to roll out targeted advertising to viewers, questioning whether they will use set-top boxes sitting in millions of homes to monitor and ...

Congress to hold hearing on cable advertising

Apr 22, 2009

(AP) -- Cable operators will sit in the hot seat Thursday as Congress reviews their plans to roll out targeted advertising amid fears that consumer privacy could be infringed if the companies were to track and record viewing ...

Recommended for you

WEF unveils 'crowdsourcing' push on how to run the Web

7 hours ago

The World Economic Forum unveiled a project on Thursday aimed at connecting governments, businesses, academia, technicians and civil society worldwide to brainstorm the best ways to govern the Internet.

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

Aug 26, 2014

People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

Aug 23, 2014

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ZenaV
not rated yet Nov 10, 2009
It's about time they bust their btts and there's one on THIS PAGE and popped at me!!! Shame, shame, shame...satan's little workers;....