Google’s Eric Schmidt on Mobile Marketing [Annals of Why We Need Mobile Privacy and Consumer Protection Safeguards]

Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave the keynote address at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s “Ecosystem 2.0” conference.  As reported, he explained that [our emphasis]:

“The smartphone is the iconic device of our time,” Schmidt told the record IAB audience of 750 in Palm Springs, California. A year ago, he added, he predicted that mobile use would surpass PCs within two years. “It happened two weeks ago. And the PC is not going to catch up,” Schmidt said, as he labeled the new era, “Mobile First.”…The hyperlocal potential of mobile, Schmidt continued, means that smartphones and tablets bring a practical application to marketing that no other medium can match: A connection that will lead you to the store, open the door, and direct you to a product you need. “A RadioShack ad can tell you where you are and how to get to the nearest store.” And equipped with Near Field Communication chip (NFC), the newest generation of smartphones not only can tell you what to buy, it can enable a tap-and-pay transaction…Think of the offers mechanisms for advertisers,” Schmidt offered. “We’ve spent 20 years trying to get here. And now there’s an explosion in commerce. Particularly for the consumer who says, “I want to buy something and want to buy it right now,” he added, “We can do it.”

And, in large part, that capability means that mobile media consumption “is happening faster than all our internal predictions.”

Some 78% of smartphone internet users already use their smartphones as they shop. And, as consumer comfort with – and acceptance of – new mobile technology continues, Schmidt envisions “a world, in the very near future, where computers remember things and you never need to worry about forgetting anything. You want it to remember something and it will. And you’re never lost. No one is ever lost. You never turn off the [mobile device] and you’ll always know where you are. And where you want to go….”

Leading Health, Privacy, and Consumer Groups Call on FTC to Protect Adolescent Privacy online

For Immediate Release:  Feb. 18, 2011
Child, Health and Consumer Advocates Ask FTC for Teen Privacy Protections, including Do-Not-Track and No Behavioral Targeting

Today a Coalition of Child, Health and Consumer Advocates filed comments on the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed privacy framework asking for increased privacy protections for adolescents.   The coalition includes leading advocates such as the Center for Digital Democracy, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, Children Now, and the Consumer Federation of America.

Privacy protections are needed as teens are increasingly subjected to privacy invasions online. Teens are using new media technologies for key social interactions and to explore their identities. This increased use of digital media subjects them to wholesale data collection and profiling of even their most intimate interactions with friends, family, and schools. Meanwhile, recent research in psychology and neuroscience reveals that teens are more prone to risky behavior when their anxieties and peer relations are exploited. Privacy protections are needed to keep the online world social and safe.

Companies should not use data to behaviorally profile teens. The framework should also provide enhanced choice for adolescents, including a Do Not Track feature. In implementing “privacy by design,” companies should consider the needs and vulnerabilities of teens.  They should address those vulnerabilities by, for example, minimizing the amount of data collected from teens.  Data that is collected should be retained for only short periods and should be afforded greater security.

“Teens live online today,” said Guilherme Roschke, attorney for CDD. “This time of development and maturation requires privacy protections. Teens cannot go it alone against the vast data collection and profiling infrastructure of new media technologies that not even adults can understand.”

“Because of their avid use of new media, adolescents are primary targets for digital marketing,” explained co-signer Kathryn C. Montgomery, Ph.D. “The unprecedented ability of digital technologies to track and profile individuals across the media landscape, and to engage in sophisticated forms of targeting, puts these young people at special risk of compromising their privacy.”

The full coalition includes:

Center for Digital Democracy, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Pediatrics, Berkeley Media Studies Group, a project of the Public Health Institute, Children Now, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, David VB Britt, Retired CEO, Sesame Workshop, Ellen Wartella, Kathryn Montgomery, National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity, a project of Public Health Law & Policy, The Praxis Project, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Public Good, Public Health Institute, Tamara R. Piety, and World Privacy Forum

Guilherme Roschke
Staff Attorney / Fellow
Institute for Public Representation
First Amendment and Media Center
Georgetown University Law Center
T:(202) 662-9543
F:(202) 662-9634
gcr22@law.georgetown.edu
http://www.law.georgetown.edu/clinics/ipr/
**********

As Google Expands Digital Food Marketing Clout, How Will it Protect Children and Adolescents from Online Junk Food Ads?

Google just announced plans to “to build its advertising and marketing business in the food and beverage industries,” including “establishing a food-and-beverage team in Chicago to link with advertisers and marketers.”   The online ad market leader hired a former Frito Lay and beer marketing executive who explained that the company intended to harness the “untapped potential in the digital world for food and beverage advertisers, and Google’s ability to work with them, based on proprietary analytics that map out consumer behavior.”   The exec–Karen Sauder–said that Google intended to use its clout with online media to generate a deep connection to users, including taking advantage of “some of the new location-based services and mobile technology that’s really untapped at this point.”

As our companion site digitalads.org documents, food and beverage companies, along with online ad companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, are targeting young people with digital ads for products linked to the youth obesity crisis (they are doing this in the U.S. and globally).  Google should play a leadership role and adopt new safeguards to ensure that no one under 18 is targeted by digital junk food ads–and that it undertakes a thoughtful analysis to address problems raised when targeting vulnerable groups.  We hope Microsoft, Yahoo and others will also do so.  We call on Google to embrace a “healthy” digital diet for its food and beverage marketing. This is an issue that will be on the policy radar in 2011.

Consumers Union Supports our call for FTC action on digital pharma & health marketing

My CDD is very pleased to have received a copy of this letter sent to the FTC and FDA by Consumers Union.  It underscores how the issues around sensitive data and sensitive users are a critical part of consumer protection online.  We are also pleased about the positive coverage our complaint has received from the press, including the New York Times, CBS/Moneywatch, and other publications.

December 1, 2010

Chairman Jon Leibowitz

Federal Trade Commission

600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC  20580

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Consumers Union, the independent, non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports, urges the Federal Trade Commission to accept the request of November 23, 2010 from several petitioners “to investigate unfair and deceptive advertising practices that consumers face as they seek health information and services online.”

The very detailed 144-page filing is by the Center for Digital Democracy, U.S. PIRG, Consumer Watchdog, and the World Privacy Forum. Among the companies named in the complaint are Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, WebMD, Quality Health, Everyday Health, and Health Central. The complaint explains how non-traditional pharmaceutical advertising on the internet and elsewhere uses a wide range of tools and disguises to convince consumers to use various drug products. These advertisements frequently hide the fact that they are funded by the drug manufacturer and they often fail to give any hint of side effects or possible adverse events from use of the drugs.

We have not independently examined each of the documents cited in the complaint or the context in which they were used. But the documents are overwhelmingly explicit in their description of how to take information consumers would consider very private (the decision to type in a health-related word or phrase on a website) and consciously and unconsciously manipulate those consumers into the use of specific prescription drug products.

The mass of documents in the complaint are shocking in their totality and their implication for privacy and the use of pharmaceuticals with potentially dangerous side effects or questionable efficacies.

We urge the Commission to begin an immediate investigation pursuant to the requests in the complaint. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

William Vaughan

Health Policy Analyst

What AOL Should Have Told Reps. Barton & Markey


AOL also describes to Reps. Barton and Markey the way they use cookies that doesn’t reflect what they say to clients--such as “Target users based on attributes from user registration or third-party data (e.g. age, gender, income, kids)… Retarget users who visit your website… Target users within households using Experian’s statistical modeling based on hundreds of offline data elements that are most predictive for defining the specific audience of consumers.” For question 1, they refer to their privacy policy—something few consumers would read or understand.  Nor does the privacy policy spell out how AOL collects and targets users, as they do for potential clients.  See and compare to privacy policy. See how they offer targeting based on political information.

Question 2:  They didn’t answer completely.  They should have included information from here. And what their partners collect.

Question 3.  They should have said they urge advertisers to use pixels, beacons and other tracking tools:   “Place pixels on all high-traffic pages… Target broadly… Most networks, including Advertising.com, look at IP or cookie data to determine if a user is part of a specific demographic or has demonstrated a particular online behavior, such as shopping for a car, browsing cooking sites, and so on. With user targeting, you reach those consumers directly, regardless of the sites they happen to be visiting.”

And they say that the third party cookies don’t identify the “specific user.”  But that’s what AOL says it can target:  “Target users within households… Retarget users who visit your website… Target users within households that demonstrate the highest propensity to buy certain products…”

Question 7.  They don’t say what they do.  It’s monetizing all the data:  “We monetize nearly 1.5 billion impressions per day on average.”

10.  They should have said how they target based on financial and health info.  They didn’t.  See its targeting for health, finance, teens, Hispanics, African-Americans.


14.   Users don’t have enough information on the process to really determine whether they should opt-out.  Nor is AOL’s opt-out really visible.

Google’s Ad Targeting on Finance & Health via its Exchange: Do you know this?

Google tells users, policymakers and reporters that its “ad preference manager” is an effective consumer tool that addresses behavioral marketing.  But on its Doubleclick Ad Exchange, advertisers can use Google provided tools to target online consumers based on a wide range of product and issue “vertical” categories, including health and finance.  Here’s what Google says advertisers can target in the health and financial area.  Ask yourself.  Did you know this and shouldn’t all this be truly transparent, under full user control, with real safeguards about how such information can be obtained and used?  We do. Google isn’t the only one doing this, of course:
Doubleclick Category Targeting Codes:
category::Finance
category::Finance>Accounting & Auditing
category::Finance>Accounting & Auditing>Tax Preparation & Planning
category::Finance>Banking
category::Finance>Credit & Lending
category::Finance>Credit & Lending>Auto Financing
category::Finance>Credit & Lending>College Financing
category::Finance>Credit & Lending>Credit Cards
category::Finance>Credit & Lending>Debt Management
category::Finance>Credit & Lending>Home Financing
category::Finance>Currencies & Foreign Exchange
category::Finance>Financial Planning
category::Finance>Grants & Financial Assistance
category::Finance>Insurance
category::Finance>Insurance>Auto Insurance
category::Finance>Insurance>Health Insurance
category::Finance>Insurance>Home Insurance
category::Finance>Investing
category::Finance>Investing>Commodities & Futures Trading
category::Finance>Retirement & Pension

Health
category::Health
category::Health>Aging & Geriatrics
category::Health>Aging & Geriatrics>Alzheimer’s Disease
category::Health>Alternative & Natural Medicine
category::Health>Alternative & Natural Medicine>Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine
category::Health>Alternative & Natural Medicine>Cleansing & Detoxification
category::Health>Health Conditions
category::Health>Health Conditions>AIDS & HIV
category::Health>Health Conditions>Allergies
category::Health>Health Conditions>Arthritis
category::Health>Health Conditions>Cancer
category::Health>Health Conditions>Cold & Flu
category::Health>Health Conditions>Diabetes
category::Health>Health Conditions>Ear Nose & Throat
category::Health>Health Conditions>Eating Disorders
category::Health>Health Conditions>GERD & Digestive Disorders
category::Health>Health Conditions>Genetic Disorders
category::Health>Health Conditions>Heart & Hypertension
category::Health>Health Conditions>Infectious Diseases
category::Health>Health Conditions>Infectious Diseases>Parasites & Parasitic Diseases
category::Health>Health Conditions>Infectious Diseases>Vaccines & Immunizations
category::Health>Health Conditions>Injury
category::Health>Health Conditions>Neurological Disorders
category::Health>Health Conditions>Obesity
category::Health>Health Conditions>Pain Management
category::Health>Health Conditions>Pain Management>Headaches & Migraines
category::Health>Health Conditions>Respiratory Conditions
category::Health>Health Conditions>Respiratory Conditions>Asthma
category::Health>Health Conditions>Skin Conditions
category::Health>Health Conditions>Sleep Disorders
category::Health>Health Education & Medical Training
category::Health>Health Foundations & Medical Research
category::Health>Medical Devices & Equipment
category::Health>Medical Facilities & Services
category::Health>Medical Facilities & Services>Doctors’ Offices
category::Health>Medical Facilities & Services>Hospitals & Treatment Centers
category::Health>Medical Facilities & Services>Medical Procedures
category::Health>Medical Facilities & Services>Medical Procedures>Medical Tests & Exams
category::Health>Medical Facilities & Services>Medical Procedures>Surgery
category::Health>Medical Facilities & Services>Physical Therapy
category::Health>Medical Literature & Resources
category::Health>Medical Literature & Resources>Medical Photos & Illustration
category::Health>Men’s Health
category::Health>Mental Health
category::Health>Mental Health>Anxiety & Stress
category::Health>Mental Health>Depression
category::Health>Mental Health>Learning & Developmental Disabilities
category::Health>Mental Health>Learning & Developmental Disabilities>ADD & ADHD
category::Health>Nursing
category::Health>Nursing>Assisted Living & Long Term Care
category::Health>Nutrition
category::Health>Nutrition>Special & Restricted Diets
category::Health>Nutrition>Special & Restricted Diets>Cholesterol Issues
category::Health>Nutrition>Vitamins & Supplements
category::Health>Oral & Dental Care
category::Health>Pediatrics
category::Health>Pharmacy
category::Health>Pharmacy>Drugs & Medications
category::Health>Public Health
category::Health>Public Health>Health Policy
category::Health>Public Health>Occupational Health & Safety
category::Health>Public Health>Poisons & Overdoses
category::Health>Reproductive Health
category::Health>Reproductive Health>Birth Control
category::Health>Reproductive Health>Erectile Dysfunction
category::Health>Reproductive Health>Infertility
category::Health>Reproductive Health>OBGYN
category::Health>Reproductive Health>Sex Education & Counseling
category::Health>Reproductive Health>Sexual Enhancement
category::Health>Reproductive Health>Sexually Transmitted Diseases
category::Health>Substance Abuse
category::Health>Substance Abuse>Smoking & Smoking Cessation
category::Health>Substance Abuse>Steroids & Performance-Enhancing Drugs
category::Health>Vision Care
category::Health>Vision Care>Eyeglasses & Contacts
category::Health>Women’s Health

Google’s new `simplifed’ Privacy Policy: More disclosure and honesty required [updated]

Last week Google announced it was “simplifying and updating” its privacy policies.  As it so often does, the announcement was framed as a `we did for your good’ kind of effort.  “[W]e want to make our policies more transparent and understandable,” it explained, noting that “most privacy policies are still too hard to understand.” But as so often with Google and other online marketers, you have to both read between the digital lines and also analyze what’s really going on.

Google’s revised policy, which takes effect October 3, fails to really explain to consumers/users what’s actually going on.  Like other privacy policies, Google claims that all its data collection is to “provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services.”  But what they really mean–and what the Congress, the FTC and other regulators must require them to disclose–is that they have crafted a wide-ranging system designed to foster personalized data collection and online targeting.  Missing from the revised Privacy Policy (which Google, btw, is pitching to privacy advocates and no doubt others as a  paragon of digital virtue) is any candid disclosure on how its Doubleclick, Admob, Google Display Network, Ad Exchange, Teracent, and other services collect information from and about us.

Google isn’t alone–Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and everyone else rely on a purposefully deceptive privacy policy to engage in data collection activities that require disclosure and individual user control.  Google is also reshaping its privacy policy to better capture all the data it can collect across multiple platforms and applications. Here, just for the record, is what Google advertised in Ad Age’s recent Ad Exchange and online advertising guide [excerpt]:  No matter how you define performance, the Google Display Network offers a solution. By bringing more measurability and precision to your advertising, it enables you to create, target and optimize ads based on real-time data, meaning better returns for you.

The Google Display Network helps advertisers and agencies achieve performance at scale by delivering relevant, accountable ads to their target audiences—in more places, more often…Precisely target your audience: The Google Display Network’s technology enables you to find customers based on their interests, sites they visit and when they’re engaging with relevant content via contextual targeting, or show specific messages to users who’ve already visited your site with remarketing…The Google Display Network provides opportunities to advertise in all such environments—feeds, games, mobile, social networks and video streams— enabling you to create an immersive experience for your audience.

PS.  Well, Google just also announced what its interactive display ad system can do for marketers.  How come this isn’t in the privacy policy in understandable language and full consumer control? Excerpt:  Advertising with Google used to be all about four lines of text, on Google.com and on our partner sites. No longer. Did you know that, outside of ads alongside search results, more than 40 percent of the ads that we show are now non-text ads? And that doesn’t include the 45 billion ads that our DoubleClick advertising products serve every day across the web.

We get excited by display advertising for a number of reasons…Teracent’s technology can automatically tailor and select the creative elements in an ad, and adjust them based on location, language, weather and even the past performance of ads, to show the optimal ad.  We’re focused on helping advertisers get the best results from their campaigns—by enabling creative branding campaigns, precise targeting, wide reach and effective measurement. Over recent years, we’ve added a ton of new features to YouTube and the Google Display Network, to help advertisers get—and measure—the results they’re after. From remarketing to Campaign Insights to video targeting on YouTube, we’re building tools that are helping advertisers get great results and enabling them to run some of the most amazing ad campaigns the world has ever seen.

Google’s non-neutral YouTube–Gives Advertisers “Brand Protection” to bypass online videos

Google, like other major advertising and media companies, works hard to please its biggest advertisers.  For decades, radio and TV networks relied on Standards and Practices divisions to screen programs to make sure they were suitable “environment” for commercials.  So-called “brand protection” has mushroomed online–as we predicted it would many years ago.  The business model for TV and the Internet are aligned–it must please the Fortune 1000 advertiser first.  So it’s no surprise that Google has launched a “brand protection feature” for YouTube, explains Ad Age, that provides “more control for advertisers to exclude objectionable videos, genres, channels.”  Ad Age explained that YouTube’s new feature, is called “target excludes.” It’s “part of the site’s Video Targeting Tool, which gives advertisers the choice to exclude as few as one video they don’t want their product associated with as well as specific genres and channels. The feature addresses the most often-criticized aspect of YouTube: You can buy video there, but you never know what you’ll get.Other uses for this new feature by advertisers include improving returns by excluding channels or videos that are not relevant to the brand or those that are performing poorly.”

Here’s how Google explains it: “We’re constantly working to give advertisers control and flexibility over their YouTube campaigns. We place great value on this because ads are an extension of what a company represents as a business, and we want YouTube to be a place where that reputation and image can flourish. To that end, we’ve been rolling out features to keep advertisers in control of their campaigns…Google has also been investing significantly in ensuring brand safety, transparency and control for advertisers across the Google Display Network. We’re hoping that these added layers of control will make your campaign targeting even more precise.”

As we said, so-called online brand protection is a booming business.  But its purpose, explains one online advertiser, is to be “a preemptive technology and is designed to block ads from appearing next to controversial content…protecting brands from potentially damaging negative associations resulting out of negative content adjacencies.”  But questions should be raised now about how decisions will be made placing videos and other content on so-called censoring “whitelists” [which are really blacklists]. How will it ultimately affect the diversity of controversial content online?  Does YouTube further go from a quasi common carrier to an environment where, as we already see, Google favors some content over others?   Will the online medium be further transformed to reflect the TV model, with consequences to serious journalism and independent content?  The questions are larger than what Google does.  But given Google’s network neutrality flipflop and its online ad and data collection ambitions, a debate about the impact of so-called “brand protection” on the future of the online media is in order.

Google’s interest in better bandwidth access for video and interactive ads—do negotiations with Verizon reflect recent changes for YouTube?

Google recently made an announcement that will require likely greater bandwidth for Google’s YouTube.  According to its July 9, 2010 post, “Today at the VidCon 2010 conference, we announced support for videos shot in 4K, meaning that now we support original video resolution from 360p all the way up to 4K…We’re excited about this latest step in the evolution of online video.” Also perhaps relevant to its Verizon dealmaking is Google’s move towards long-form ad supported videos on YouTube, to better position itself as a commercial video provider. If they want to ensure they are first in the `que’ with other entertainment companies, then reversing its position on network neutrality is part of their business plans.  They are ultimately in the same show biz/advertising space as everyone else is.   Btw, given that the media/telecom companies really don’t see a difference when marketing and distributing across multiple platforms, inc, mobile, it’s outrageous mobile would be exempt from network neutrality rules.  But perhaps blame it on Google’s Admob acquisition and its [and everyone else’s] plans for mobile location ad targeting!

Here’s an excerpt from today’s Ad Age article on Google’s new higher resolution and more bandwidth system for YouTube:  “YouTube recently announced support for “4k video,” meaning video files with a dimensional size up to 4096 x 2304 pixels — in other words, much larger than your computer can handle.  Online video is booming, and marketers are still trying to figure out how to create the optimal user experience and achieve the best results for their campaigns…YouTube mentions that watching videos in 4k requires an “ultra-fast high-speed broadband connection,” but this is actually the least-important requirement. While users on slower broadband connections can always wait for enough of the video to download and buffer before watching it (though why would a marketer force consumers to do that?)…

Google tells investors via SEC: New privacy laws could be “inconsistent with our data practices” And the “hundreds” of engineers they have working on display ad technology

Google’s 10Q second quarter report just filed at the SEC has an interesting reflection on how the online ad giant views the privacy issue.  It wrote that:

Regulatory authorities around the world are considering a number of legislative proposals concerning data protection. In addition, the interpretation and application of data protection laws in Europe and elsewhere are still uncertain and in flux. It is possible that these laws may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our data practices. If so, in addition to the possibility of fines, this could result in an order requiring that we change our data practices, which could have an adverse effect on our business. Complying with these various laws could cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices in a manner adverse to our business.

And a somewhat related angle–Google’s focus on generating more ad dollars online.   Brandweek reports, in an article on all the venture investment going into expanding online targeting that:

Neal Mohan, the vp of product management at Google who leads its display ad efforts, believes the display ad market could be five times the size it is today, if the system for buying ads was more efficient and the performance measurement was better.

“It can be done, frankly, a lot better than it is today,” Mohan said, noting Google now has “hundreds” of engineers working on display advertising technology.