Behavioral Targeting Lawsuit Illuminates How Data is Collected From You

Look for a moment at an excerpt from a legal tangle between behavioral targeting companies Valueclick and Tacoda (the latter now owned by Time Warner). Valueclick filed suit on July 15 claiming patent infringements, including for one entitled “Method and Apparatus for Determining Behavioral Profile of a User.” Read the “Abstract” and part of the “Summary of the Invention” for this patent and think about your privacy (and that this is based on 1998 technology!):“Abstract: Computer network method and apparatus provides targeting of appropriate audience based on psychographic or behavioral profiles of end users. The psychographic profile is formed by recording computer activity and viewing habits of the end user. Content of categories of interest and display format in each category are revealed by the psychographic profile, based on user viewing of agate information. Using the profile (with or without additional user demographics), advertisements are displayed to appropriately selected users. Based on regression analysis of recorded responses of a first set of users viewing the advertisements, the target user profile is refined. Viewing by and regression analysis of recorded responses of subsequent sets of users continually auto-target and customizes ads for the optimal end user audience.”

Summary Of The Invention: …Over time, the tracking and profiling member holds a history and/or pattern of user activity which in turn is interpreted as a users habits and/or preferences. To that end, a psychographic profile is inferred from the recorded activities in the tracking and profiling member. Further, the tracking and profiling member records presentation (formal) preferences of the users based on user viewing activity. Preferences with respect to color schemes, text size, shapes, and the like are recorded as part of the psychographic profile of a user…The tracking and profiling member also records demographics of each user. As a result, the data assembly is able to transmit advertisements for display to users based on psychographic and demographic profiles of the user to provide targeted marketing.”
source: Complaint for Patent Infringement: Jury Trial Demanded. Valueclick, Inc. v, Tacoda, Inc. Case No. CV08-04619 DSF. U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Western Division.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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