A New York assemblyman has put together a bill that if passed will make it a punishable offense for certain Web companies to collect personal information about their users for advertising purposes without their consent. Richard L. Brodsky, the assemblyman who sponsored the bill, stated, “Should these companies be able to sell or use what’s essentially private data without permission? The easy answer is absolutely not.”
Such a law would be the first of its kind in the United States, setting a precedent that will undoubtedly shake companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, whose sponsored search platforms rely on such information.
If passed users would have to give explicit permission for companies to be able to utilize their personal data, such as search patterns.
In the New York Times on Friday Joseph Turow, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania said:
“A law like this essentially takes some of the gold away from marketers. But it’s the right thing to do. Consumers have no idea how much information is being collected about them, and the advertising industry should have to deal with that.”
The major players have taken notice of the precedent this may set. Microsoft and Yahoo both sent lobbyists to meet Brodsky.
The Times article points out:
“Unlike most Web companies, Microsoft favors legislation about online privacy and advertising practices and has lobbied federal lawmakers to establish regulations, said Michael Hintze, associate general counsel for Microsoft.”
Oh, I wonder why?
Maybe because a bill such as this would put Google, a company that has been pushing corporate America to put more of its advertising dollars on to the Web, in at least an uncomfortable position. This piece of legislation, if passed, could provide the Web goliath its first real competition in years. How do you convince major advertisers to relinquish marketing dollars into a medium that many of them still see as experimental and that on top of that cannot be heavily monitored?
In a sense, internet marketing would lose a little of its allure as a targeted and inexpensive format.
Not to worry, however, the internet marketing doomsday is not yet here. If bills such as these were passed we would still be able to target through keyword selection, and we would still have generic traffic figures and market research information.
The concern of the major internet companies should peak our interest as marketers, however. If Mr. Brodsky and his plan were really nothing to be afraid of they would ignore it the way they do their users right to privacy.
About David Snyder
David Snyder is the online marketing manager for THAT Agency.