Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lawmakers Seek Data On Targeted Online Ads

Here's some good news, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expanding its inquiry into potential privacy violations of online advertising that is targeted based on consumers' Web-surfing activities.

The lawmakers have written to 33 telecommunications businesses to learn whether, how and when Internet companies might have engaged in such practices. Their aim in part is to determine whether existing laws sufficiently protect consumers' privacy in online behavioral advertising or whether new legislation is needed.

The Washington Post reports:

A key issue for some of the lawmakers is whether consumers are given sufficiently clear notice about what information is collected, how it is used to target ads and whether consumers have control over the use of the data.

Some, like Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the panel's telecommunications subcommittee, said at a hearing on the subject last month that consumers "deserve one clear, conspicuous" notice about the data collection and should not be sent targeted ads unless they give their consent -- what he termed "meaningful opt-in consent."

I'll be very interested to see what they uncover. I would not at all be surprised if the data gathering techniques used by industry are far more invasive than initially thought.

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