PBS and Stealth Interactive Advertising: Part II

We just learned that early this year, PBS began running “sponsored links” on some of its webpages, such as on “arts and drama.” When you go to these pages, there are ads promoting such things as a “Are You Normal” quiz from Chatterbeam.com. That site tries to capture personal information, including your email. Even a pop-up ad shows up. One major problem is that PBS fails to disclose that a cookie may be placed on your computer, and that other information may be shared with third-parties. In other words, PBS is helping place our privacy at risk. It is certainly aiding commercial data collection. [Read the privacy policy at the bottom of the Chatterbox page.]
This is another example of how out-of-touch PBS senior management are with their non-commercial mandate. They shouldn’t be involved in a ad-revenue sharing deal with Google. They certainly shouldn’t be acting as a digital go-between with commercial sites engaged in data collection. PBS.org’s flimsy “what’s this” disclosure link under the ads is totally inadequate.

PBS needs to maintain a coherent and ethical non-commercial approach to digital communications. Commercial exploitation on PBS sites will only do damage to the service in the long run.

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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