Ad Lobby Research Says Vast Majority of Online Ads Involve Behavioral Profiling & Targeting

The online ad industry lobbying group–the Interactive Advertising Bureau [IAB]–has revealed results from its own research that show the widespread use of behavioral targeting.  In a post on its criticisms of privacy legislation introduced by Chairman Bobby Rush, the IAB explains that:

“In an IAB survey of ad agencies conducted earlier this year, we found that 80% or more of digital advertising campaigns were touched by behavioral targeting in some way.

That means the majority of what consumers do online–including when they deal with sensitive transactions involving their finance, health or other family matters–are being closely tracked and profiled.  In addition, the IAB attacks the important civil rights provisions in both the Boucher/Stearns and Rush bills.  That provision would ensure that data collection about a consumers racial, ethnic or sexual orientation would be better under the control of the individual.   You would think that the IAB leadership, including Google, NBC, CBS, and Disney, would support a policy that would restrict the potential use of online racial profiling.  But the IAB claims these provisions protecting multicultural and other consumers “could constrain multicultural marketing and media…These types of services provide great benefits to their audiences and the proposed restrictions would actually harm the very group of people they seek to protect.”  That’s an irresponsible position.  We should be able to protect civil rights and promote diverse online publishing.
The IAB’s claims that behavioral targeting is anonymous doesn’t hold up to the facts, as well.  The time for action by both the FTC and Congress has arrived.

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.