Tracking You Offline for Better Targeting You Online: Why both the FTC and Congress Need to Protect Consumers

There is growing evidence daily about threats to consumer privacy online–all of which have real life consequences for the decisions we make when we buy products.   As the public relies more on using online to apply for credit cards, mortgages, explore health concerns or issues affecting their children and teenagers, it’s absolutely essential the individual–not the business–have full control over their data.  In a trade article on the “profiling” of consumers for online targeting, here’s how they describe linking your offline data with your digital experience.  It shows how the current definition of Personally Identifiable Information, PII, is out of date and fails to protect consumers.  Marketers don’t need your name or address to know your behaviors and target you [excerpt]:

How do marketers get access to the offline purchase data? More importantly, how do they marry it to your online identity without using PII? Usually, this involves the cooperation of several parties. The first might be an online retailer that links a credit card used in an ecommerce transaction with a third-party cookie. The second party is a data partner who owns that particular cookie and pulls in additional purchase history to augment the profile associated with that cookie, and then rents the profile to a marketer. The third is an online ad exchange, which will allow ad hoc purchasing of inventory against a particular cookie across inventory sold on the exchange.

source:  Where do we draw the line on consumer profiling?  Tom Hespos.  May 21, 2009

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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