12 Mar mocoNews – Privacy Advocates Step Up Attack On Targeted Marketing
Washington Post, By James Quintana Pearce, March 11, 2009
Privacy issues around tracking people via their mobiles to allow for targeted advertising are picking up steam. NYT has covered the issue, pointing out that advertisers are keen to improve their targeting (“Advertisers will pay high rates for the ability to show, for example, ads for a nearby restaurant to someone leaving a Broadway show, especially when coupled with information about the gender, age, finances and interests of the consumer”) but privacy advocates are eager to limit data collection to that which is fair and agreed upon. The rhetoric is heating up, with Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, calling them “a portable, personal spy,” while Eric Bader from Brand in Hand describing the efforts by companies to find out more about their users as “an arms race.” To give some idea of the scale of the tracking initiatives, Quattro Wireless has about 20 pieces of information that it keeps on customers. The FTC is already onto this, last month telling the industry that if it didn’t implement stronger privacy protections, the FTC would start regulating, and it’s bound to get a lot of submissions. Currently, as long as companies don’t use personally identifiable information there are no regulations, irrespective of how much data is collected. Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) is coming under attack for sending out a “45-page pamphlet of legalese saying he could opt out of letting the company share “Customer Proprietary Network Information” with other groups”. Verizon claim they won’t sell customer info to third parties, they only need the form so the company can share information amongst the Verizon Group of companies. TechDirt points out that even if Verizon’s argument is true, the way it was communicated is bound to raise suspicion.