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: Twitter blocks two accounts on its Turkish network

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

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

Apr 18, 2014

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

Apr 18, 2014

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

White House updating online privacy policy

Apr 18, 2014

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to WhiteHouse.gov, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

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;....

More news stories

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Easter morning delivery for space station

Space station astronauts got a special Easter treat: a cargo ship full of supplies. The shipment arrived Sunday morning via the SpaceX company's Dragon cargo capsule.