Originally published: August 20, 2008
Last updated: August 20, 2008 - 4:31pm
[Commentary] Though they're all approaching it in different ways, a bunch of large Internet firms -- including ISPs like Charter and AT&T and Web companies like Yahoo, Microsoft, and perhaps even Google -- are crawling toward adopting "behavioral targeting" systems. Predictably, privacy advocates are pushing lawmakers to outlaw or significantly limit this sort of invasive advertising. Proponents of behavioral targeting defend the practice saying Web surfers will benefit from close monitoring of our habits because we'll soon be getting more "relevant" ads. Considering the large networks that Web companies now manage and the money they can make by selling ads tailored to your surfing habits, it seems obvious that behavioral targeting will soon rule the Internet ad market. As the targeted-ad boom approaches, we Web surfers need to prepare ourselves -- and think of how we might be able to take advantage even as we have targets on our backs. Privacy advocates are asking Congress to make all behavioral targeting opt-in -- Google, your ISP, or any other company wouldn't be able to trade on your online actions without asking for your permission first. But marketers balk at this suggestion. Surveys show that most of us would refuse to sign away our Web history to marketers in return for nothing more than better-targeted ads. How's this for a compromise: If Web companies want to sell my personal information to advertisers, they ought to pay me for it.
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