NAI New “Study” on Behavioral Targeting: Self-Defense for Privacy-Threatening Data Collection

The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), the online ad industry’s toothless self-regulatory scheme–has released a report designed to undermine policy safeguards protecting consumer privacy.  The NAI engaged the services of Prof. J. Howard Beales--a former FTC official who largely supported self-regulation of online data collection during his tenure at the agency–to issue a study.  Not surprisingly–and something anyone who follows behavioral online advertising knows–is that these practices work.  When you track, collect, profile a consumer online and know their interests, background, location, you can make a better ad experience.  Privacy is only mentioned once in the report.   The study’s message is really that if it makes money, don’t think of protecting consumer privacy.   The NAI explained in a release that “Behaviorally targeted ads sell for twice the price and offer twice the effectiveness of normal run-of-network ads, significantly enhancing the advertising revenue engine driving the growth of the Internet.”

The suggestion that we should not be concerned about privacy even if these practices threaten consumer protection is absurd.  Anyone who suggests that we should permit a wholesale invasion of privacy (and more) because it helps support online publishing isn’t addressing the critical question.  How can we protect consumers and also have a robust online content system?  Both can–and must–be done.

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.

Leave a Reply