Tracking Consumers to Identify their “Intent” to Purchase Products and Services. Safeguards Required for Predictive Behavioral Targeting

As the FTC and Congress work to create new safeguards, they must address a range of issues related to new forms of data collection, profiling and tracking.  As the WSJ series illustrates [which used information provided by my CDD], privacy is at risk in today’s digital marketing system.  The growth of so-called “predictive” behavioral targeting is one example of marketers pushing the data collection technology envelope without considering the consequences to consumers and citizens.

Yesterday, for example, display ad company Dapper released a new ad product designed to improve display marketing that incorporates “user intent determination” with the “real-time” online ad auction process that sells access to individual consumers to the highest bidder.  In its release, Dapper explains that it can:  Infer users intent: Through IntentMatch, Dapper DisplayDR goes far beyond retargeting to harvest and combine behavioral (via the advertiser’s own data or 3rd party data), semantic, contextual, geographic, and performance signals to match each product and offer to user intent and inform the bidding process. This multi-dimensional approach improves accuracy and performance, and significantly expands the reach of display efforts beyond behavioral targeting alone…Serve dynamic display ads that match products to intent and are optimized for performance: With Dapper DisplayDR, advertisers can show each consumer the most relevant offers from the Product Search Engine matched to their intent…Receive insightful analytics on a product level: Each campaign is tracked for clicks, conversions, and interaction down to the most granular level of specific products and offers.”

All of this is combined with the online ad exchange system that sells us to advertisers as if we are cattle at an auction: “Advertisers using Dapper DisplayDR can buy media at the impression level in real-time and algorithmically through the ad exchanges. Dapper DisplayDR features the first real-time bidding engine optimized for dynamic advertising, bidding the right price for every impression based on the probability and value of conversion – at scale – as determined by individual purchase intent, product preference, price, time to purchase, geolocation, and more. As advertisements run, Dapper DisplayDR integrates business rules and performance cues to price each bid efficiently. Dapper also leverages performance lifts to bid higher for the most profitable audiences…”

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.