The FTC says they will begin to monitor online advertising and privacy more closely to protect consumers. This was from commissioner Jon Leibowitz at a forum on behavioral targeting. As more companies track customers, the agency will establish standards and privacy.
The concerns centered on advertising shown to children and the ways advertisers try to get people to give up information about themselves online. Personal information about everyone is used in a variety of ways, and it’s not just when you are surfing the internet. Google’s Gmail serves up ads based on what you write in an email. For example, you write that you’re feeling down and you start seeing ads on how to combat depression. MySpace enables advertisers to place ads based on what you write about yourself on your profile.
First up: make privacy policies clear. According to a study Leibowitz referenced, you’ll need a college degree to understand the privacy policies of large companies.
Also at target – marketers like to make tracking opt-in, so the default is they track information about you to market to you better. Leibowitz suggests the tracking should be opt-in – or you sign up. How many of us will willingly sign up? Maybe for a good incentive but not like we are now.
Should the government take a more active role in regulating online advertising? Will it stifle innovation online if they do? If advertising is already part of our life, would we prefer that the ads were shown at least be about the products or services we’re more likely to want to know about?
These were the topics debated at the forum which included execs from Yahoo, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and AOL.