Behavioral Targeting Has Execs, MPs, Debating in London

01 Dic Behavioral Targeting Has Execs, MPs, Debating in London

ClickZ News, By Jack Marshall, December 1, 2008
Largely as a result of the media furor surrounding companies such as Phorm and NebuAd, a number of events concerning behavioral targeting have been held in the U.K. recently. The most recent was a panel discussion held in London by New Media Knowledge last Wednesday. A debate club also gathered this month in the House of Commons to argue whether or not “online advertising compromises privacy.” And the topic was a prominent one at a recent IAB U.K. conference. “The Fire and The Fury” panel, chaired by IAB U.K. CEO Guy Phillipson, included representatives from behavioral targeting outfits Phorm and Specific Media, as well as a research fellow and privacy advocate from the Oxford Internet Institute. Baroness Sue Miller, a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords was also expected to sit on the panel, but was unable to attend owing to parliamentary commitments. According to event organizers, representatives from ISPs such as British Telecom, with whom Phorm is conducting consumer trials, declined the opportunity to attend the event. From the start, the discussion provoked lively debate, and drew animated involvement from panelists and attendees alike. Unsurprisingly, Phorm’s Commercial Director, Nick Barnett, received a barrage of questions surrounding his company’s practices, but maintained its technology was legal, ethical, and posed no threat to consumer privacy. Ian Brown, speaking on behalf of the Oxford Internet Institute, commended Phorm on its transparency. However, he said he was not convinced on the legality of the firm’s practices, nor that sufficient benefits are being passed to consumers in return for their involvement with ISP-based targeting programs. Rupert Staines, Specific Media’s European VP, agreed the industry needs to educate consumers on the realities of online privacy, but was keen to distance his firm’s ad-network approach from Phorm’s ISP-level technology. “We need to get away from the feeling that consumer privacy is somehow being broken here. Everything we do every day breaches our privacy. The government has far more data than we do,” he said. “The unfortunate thing for Phorm is that they have to partner with ISPs. ISPs are in a trusted and privileged position with consumers, and now they are running scared with the thought of compromising that position,” he added, referencing recent indications that major U.K. ISPs are reluctant to implement behavioral technology.