Google Sends Speakers To FTC Town Hall Meeting On Behavioral Advertising

Google is attending and sending high-profile representatives to speak at the US FTC’s “town hall” meeting, which starts today, on “behavioral advertising.” The broad phenomenon of behavioral targeting will be under scrutiny as privacy and consumer advocates presumably point out the risks of the practice. On the rewards side will be Google and other Internet stakeholders who argue that without advertising – and increasingly personalization – the Internet as we know it wouldn’t exist.

Tim Armstrong, Google’s President of North American Advertising and Commerce, as well as two Google attorneys, Nicole Wong and Jane Horvath, will be there to speak. Specifically, Horvath, who is Google’s Senior Privacy Counsel, “will talk about [Google's] efforts to innovate in the area of privacy.”

To that end, the company has created a new YouTube channel around consumer privacy issues, called the Google Privacy Channel.

Here’s our previous post on the meeting and a post about AOL’s very recent announcement that it will let users “opt-out” of certain kinds of ad targeting. Finally, here’s a post on my personal blog, Screenwerk, about how framing the questions and issues surrounding behavioral targeting plays a role in the outcome of the debate.

Assuming the DoubleClick acquisition is approved, behavioral targeting will be important to the display ad business as well as the future of Google’s paid search business. On the Q3 earnings call, Jonathan Rosenberg, SVP, Product Management, said that Google had been experimenting with “previous query ad targeting” (i.e., behavioral targeting) in the ads it displays on search results pages.

Postscript: The IAB’s head Randall Rothenberg’s “testimony” from the FTC town hall meeting just posted on his blog. It’s a kind of syrupy plea for self-regulation and defense of advertising in general for its ability to support lots of great free content and services for consumers online. It doesn’t directly address BT questions raised by consumer and privacy groups. However, there’s an implied “slippery slope” argument that the regulation of BT would start to undermine online advertising more generally, which “is the economic foundation underlying the dynamism of the Interactive Era.”

Postscript Barry: Google Hires Gonzales’ Privacy Lawyer from Wired has an interesting piece of Jane Horvath, one of Google’s privacy lawyers. Jane Horvath was hired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in February 2006 as the first privacy officer for the Department of Justice. She now works for Google, who told Wired:

Ms. Horvath “has not been directly involved in any discussions with the FTC regarding the DoubleClick acquisition” and “has not participated in any meetings that would conflict with her post-governmental ethical obligations,” a Google spokeswoman told THREAT LEVEL via email.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: Legal | 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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