FTC Town Hall Meeting To Examine ‘Behavioral Advertising’

The US Federal Trade Commission is going to have a public forum in Washington, DC on Nov. 1-2 to bring together various consumer groups, academics and interested parties to address concerns “raised by the practice of tracking consumers’ activities online to target advertising.” The last time the FTC looked into “online profiling” for the purposes of ad targeting was 2000. However, “technology advances and the evolution of business models since that time have raised concerns by consumer advocates, privacy experts, and others about the implications of data collection in online advertising now and in the future.”

Among the topics to be addressed at the meeting are the following:

  • What types of data are collected? Is the data personally identifiable or anonymous? Even when the data is anonymous, is it, or could it be, combined with personally identifiable data from other sources?

  • How is the data used, and by whom? Is it shared or sold? Is the data used for any purposes other than to target advertising?
  • What security protections are companies providing for the consumer data that they collect, use, transfer, or store?
  • What do consumers understand about the collection of their information online for use in advertising?
  • Are companies disclosing their online data-collection practices to consumers? Are these disclosures an appropriate and effective way to inform the public about these practices? Are companies offering consumers choices about how data is collected and used?
  • What changes are anticipated in the online behavioral advertising market over the next five years? Will information be collected through technological means other than cookies? Is behavioral advertising moving beyond the Internet into other technologies?

Behavioral targeting is increasingly being combined with other forms of targeting to improve display ad performance. Search players are especially looking at behavioral targeting more.

Recently AOL acquired behavioral targeting firm Tacoda, and Yahoo has staked the future of its graphical ads on behavioral targeting to a high degree. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s push last month for industry standards on privacy coincides with its plans to behaviorally target beyond its own network.

As for Google, while it does have new search history driven ads, these are a far cry from full-blown behavioral targeting. Indeed, Google: Not Ready To Behaviorally Target explains how Google is even pushing back on the idea that it wants to do that.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Legal: Privacy | Search Ads: Behavioral Targeting

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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