Civil Liberties, Consumer & Privacy Groups to FCC: Protect Privacy

The American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Privacy Lives, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, and U.S. PIRG told the FCC in a filing 22 January 2010 that: “There are significant problems concerning the collection and use of personal data by companies, especially sensitive data and children’s data; (2) The FCC should not rely on industry self-regulatory models because they do not adequately protect consumer privacy; and (3) The principles and standards that should serve as the foundation of consumer privacy protection should be the Fair Information Practices, especially as they are implemented in the OECD Guidelines on data privacy… The FCC should consider all avenues it may use to protect consumers, including exercising its ancillary jurisdiction to address broadband privacy issues, and working with Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), which has substantial expertise in consumer privacy protection.”

To learn more, click here.

Which “Network/Entertainment” Company is Expanding its use of Neuromarketing? NeuroFocus Looks for Specialist to help that showbiz client “Develop actionable insights from neurological studies”

Companies that rely on influencing brain behavior in order to achieve marketing goals are treading on a very slippery regulatory slope.  Nielsen-backed NeuroFocus is currently searching for a “Partner” in its “Consulting Practice.”  That person will be “responsible for the development and presentation of neurological studies commissioned by our key client in the network/entertainment industry…Of primary focus will be…developing insights from the neurological study results to benefit the client leading to a lasting relationship. Summary of essential job functions:

• Develop actionable insights from neurological studies
• Present results of neurological studies directly to clients
• Deep understanding of entertainment industry / network & cable television industry
• Experience in management consulting, market research, and advertising…

NeuroFocus, Inc. is the market leader in bringing neuroscience to the world of advertising, messaging, packaging, and product development. NeuroFocus clients include Fortune 100 companies across consumer package goods, food and beverage, entertainment, financial services, automotive, consumer electronics and retail sectors. NeuroFocus clients also include major companies in the TV and Motion Picture industries.”

Microsoft’s latest Neuromarketing Research for its Xbox LIVE: Tracking “brain activity, breathing rate, head motion heart rate, blink rate and skin temperature”

Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, among many others, are using the latest tools from neuroscience to hone their interactive marketing services.  Microsoft released its latest neurmarketing “groundbreaking “study yesterday, which used “neuroscience to compare Xbox LIVE to traditional video…”  Here’s an excerpt from the release:

In the study, Microsoft and Initiative, a division of Mediabrands, measured advertising effectiveness across media types and explored how neuroscience technologies can help answer two questions that marketers have asked for years: how to measure audience engagement with their brand and how to measure advertising impact across several media types.

This pilot study, conducted by EmSense, a leading neuroscience company, involved two of Initiative’s clients, Hyundai and Kia Motors, in which test subjects were exposed to various media and advertising campaigns from the companies while wearing a special sensor-laden headset. The headset tracked brain activity, breathing rate, head motion, heart rate, blink rate and skin temperature. Test subjects were also asked to take a post-exposure survey.

The Xbox LIVE campaigns consisted of interactive billboards that users could click through to a branded landing page where they could then interact with content and download videos. The traditional videos used in this study included a 30-second television spot for Hyundai and a 60-second in-theater spot for Kia Motors America.

The results showed more time spent, greater recall and higher levels of emotional and cognitive response in association with the Xbox LIVE ad campaigns than with the traditional video spots. The interactive capabilities of Xbox LIVE enabled an additional 238 seconds of engagement beyond the traditional video ad, which lead to increased unaided recall and brand awareness. For example, the Xbox LIVE ads delivered 90 percent unaided brand recall, compared with 78 percent unaided brand recall rates for the 60-second spot. In addition, the Xbox LIVE ads delivered higher levels of both cognitive and emotional responses.

“We know from our standard performance metrics that our Xbox LIVE campaign is effective,” said Michael Hayes, executive vice president, managing director of Digital, Initiative. “What’s compelling about this research is that we now know that consumers are making an emotional connection with Kia Motors America as well.”

Even more compelling is the methodology that allows brands to compare impact and engagement across multiple measures and across a variety of media types…said Mark Kroese, general manager of the Microsoft Advertising Business Group, Entertainment & Devices Division, Microsoft. “…If we can crack the code on this, marketers and advertisers will be able to pinpoint ROI by media type and know which campaigns are yielding the greatest impact.”

Consumer and Privacy Groups at FTC Roundtable to Call for Decisive Agency Action

Washington, DC, December 6, 2009 – On Monday December 7, 2009, consumer representatives and privacy experts speaking at the first of three Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Exploring Privacy Roundtable Series will call on the agency to adopt new policies to protect consumer privacy in today’s digitized world. Consumer and privacy groups, as well as academics and policymakers, have increasingly looked to the FTC to ensure that Americans have control over how their information is collected and used.

The groups have asked the Commission to issue a comprehensive set of Fair Information Principles for the digital era, and to abandon its previous notice and choice model, which is not effective for consumer privacy protection.

Specifically, at the Roundtable on Monday, consumer panelists and privacy experts will call on the FTC to stop relying on industry privacy self-regulation because of its long history of failure. Last September, a number of consumer groups provided Congressional leaders and the FTC a detailed blueprint of pro-active measures designed to protect privacy, available at:

These measures include giving individuals the right to see, have a copy of, and delete any information about them; ensuring that the use of consumer data for any credit, employment, insurance, or governmental purpose or for redlining is prohibited; and ensuring that websites should only initially collect and use data from consumers for a 24-hour period, with the exception of information categorized as sensitive, which should not be collected at all. The groups have also requested that the FTC establish a Do Not Track registry.

Quotes from Monday’s panelists:

Marc Rotenberg, EPIC: “There is an urgent need for the Federal Trade Commission to address the growing threat to consumer privacy.  The Commission must hold accountable those companies that collect and use personal information. Self-regulation has clearly failed.”

Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy: “Consumers increasingly confront a sophisticated and pervasive data collection apparatus that can profile, track and target them online. The Obama FTC must quickly act to protect the privacy of Americans,including information related to their finances, health, and ethnicity.”

Susan Grant, Consumer Federation of America: “It’s time to recognize privacy as a fundamental human right and create a public policy framework that requires that right to be respected,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at Consumer Federation of America. “Rather than stifling innovation, this will spur innovative ways to make the marketplace work better for consumers and businesses.”

Pam Dixon, World Privacy Forum: “Self-regulation of commercial data brokers has been utterly ineffective to protect consumers. It’s not just bad actors who sell personal information ranging from mental health information, medical status, income, religious and ethnic status, and the like. The sale of personal information is a routine business model for many in corporate America, and neither consumers nor policymakers are aware of the amount of trafficking in personal information. It’s time to tame the wild west with laws that incorporate the principles of the Fair Credit Reporting Act to ensure transparency, accountability, and consumer control.”

Written statements and other materials for the roundtable panelists are available at the following links:





CDD Urges Regulators to Protect Consumer Privacy in Comcast/NBCU deal

The Center for Digital Democracy will ask both the FCC and FTC to ensure that consumer privacy is protected as part of the regulatory review of the Comcast/NBCU partnership.  Comcast is currently deploying interactive TV applications, including for advertising, on its cable systems.   The nation’s largest cable company and broadband ISP  has played a leading role in developing next-generation “advanced advertising” services through the Canoe Ventures interactive TV cable consortium, as well as with CableLabs (Comcast chair Brian Roberts is the chair of the board of CableLabs, the industry’s R&D center).  For advanced advertising, information on household viewing, including from individuals, will be collected from set-top boxes that can be combined with outside databases to form viewer ad targeting profiles.   Highly personal ads will be created, practically instantaneously, for real-time delivery based on these profiles. Cable and other video providers are creating a “real-time decision-making system” for marketing that analyzes user data–including income, ethnicity, and viewing and behavior patterns–to help determine the precise ad to be delivered. Comcast is reportedly planning  “a gigantic database called “TV Warehouse,” able to store a full year of statistics gathered from digital set-tops in more than 16 million households nationwide… having a massive 500 Terabytes of storage, would then feed up to a database even broader in scope operated by Canoe Ventures…”

As the nation’s biggest “video provider” and “largest residential Internet service provider,” Comcast has access to detailed financial information on its TV and broadband subscribers.  It also has a treasure trove of consumer data on viewing behaviors online and with TV.  Comcast can also use its dominate position as the leading high-speed ISP and cable TV provider to extract additional consumer information from its programming partners.   Regulators will need to ensure effective safeguards on network neutrality, programming access and competition, and consumer privacy—especially for “advanced advertising.”

CDD also will ask competition authorities to review Comcast’s relationship with Canoe Ventures, and its implications on content diversity.
Some Background:;;;;;;;

Neuromarketing Hollywood style [inc. Fox!]: “This allows our clients to see what their audience is seeing and feeling, not what they say they’re seeing and feeling”

The intrepid Variety columnist Brian Lowry took readers on a tour of a neuromarketing outfit that works for show-biz companies, among others.  Here’s a excerpt:

Innerscope Research was birthed just three years ago, but the company has already found various entertainment and advertising clients for its biometric research, which employs eye-tracking technology as well as EKG monitors to gauge subconscious response along four key criteria: heart rate, breathing, moisture levels (or sweat) and movement.

“It’s very hard for people to accurately reflect their internal world,” says Innerscope CEO Carl Marci, noting that 75% of brain processing “is below conscious awareness.”…they have notched a number of entertainment clients looking to augment traditional research, including Fox, NBC and Discovery, along with a growing number of advertisers…Biometrics thus provides a diagnostic tool, able to pinpoint physical reactions to specific moments that the viewer might not even realize…Innerscope’s findings have included the revelation that people exhibit emotional responses as they fast-forward through commercial pods, meaning that ads are still registering to those viewing via TiVo or another digital video recorder. The company can also pinpoint whether a movie trailer, say, is generating the sort of “emotional engagement” that marketers hope to achieve.

“This allows our clients to see what their audience is seeing and feeling, not what they say they’re seeing and feeling,” Marci explains [Innerscope CEO Carl Marci].

source:  The future of focus group testing/This test gets under your skin.  Brian Lowry.  Variety.  October 5-11, 2009,

The “Hidden Persuaders” returns with the growing role of Neuromarketing: “Your message or materials will be absorbed directly into the consumer’s subsconscious” [Annals of Mass Micro-Persuasion]

As we have explained to policymakers in the US and EU, the growing use of neuroscience techniques requires government scrutiny and regulatory safeguards. Even political campaigns appear to be using such methods.  No one should be permitted, in my opinion, to devise any public effort that is designed to deliberately influence the unconscious part of our brain.

Here’s an except from a research paper by a Nielsen backed neuromarketing firm called Neurofocus.   The paper is “Absorption:  How Messages Morph into Meaning And Value in The Mind,” and was written by Dr. A. K. Pradeep.  [published September 2008]

Engagement brings you to the threshold. Absorption carries you beyond, to the state where your message or other material has been fully taken in by the consumer’s brain... Full absorption is also when your message or materials or retail environment, etc. return the highest rate of impact and value for your investment. But neuroscientific research demonstrates that you cannot, and will not, reach that goal consistently and most effectively unless and until you understand how the brain actually functions, and you shape your messages/material /environment accordingly.

For example, as I cited above, we have identified 67 specific ‘best practices’ that should be implemented when words and images are presented on a screen (any screen, from a TV or PC to a mobile phone or movie theater). They are the result of advanced neurological research into various brain functions, and especially research that has delved into the mysteries of diseases like Alzheimer’s, and brain conditions like ADD/ADHD, obsessive/compulsive behavior, and bipolar disorder.

Follow these best practices, give the brain what it wants and likes most, and you stand the best chance of success for your brand and your investment. Your message or materials will be absorbed directly into the consumer’s subconscious, where we can measure them for their effectiveness at the level devoid of any ‘outside’ contaminating influences like education, language, cultural ethnicity or other factors.

Protecting Privacy Online from so-called `Smart’ Ads that “Gleans Information about the Consumer”

As we have explained to policymakers, they also must address how online marketing applications threaten consumer privacy.   The rise of so-called smart ads that learn about your interests and behaviors, and then makes you special offers, involves the use of sophisticated digital techniques such as rich media. As this week’s Performance Insider on “Add Direct Response to Get More out of Rich-Media Ads” explains:

Ad delivery technologies further enhance direct response success by leveraging dynamic ad generation to produce a custom rich media ad that is optimized based on specific levers — products or creative elements of interest to the consumer combined with behavioral, demographic, geo and other targeting. By creating an on-the-fly, ultra-relevant ad with in-banner key response activities, marketers will drive greater interaction, response and conversion.

Rich media and online marketing company Pointroll (owned by Gannett) explains how the use of its “tailgating” technologies expand the capability of interactive multimedia ads:

Rich media ads are attention-grabbing, powerful, and engaging. They can encourage consumers to buy products and direct them to the advertiser’s retail stores or website via click-through to make the purchase. But until now, they were not a true end-to-end solution. Now, through a partnership with tailgate, pointroll offers secure ecommerce capabilities directly within rich media ad units. With pointroll ads powered by tailgate technology, consumers can purchase goods and services directly within the ad unit, without ever leaving the site they’re browsing. Tailgate can enable any credit card-based ecommerce transaction. Possible applications include purchasing movie tickets, music, ring tones and retail goods; and making political or charitable donations…Advanced analytics – integrated reporting, analysis & research tools provide an in-depth look at campaign performance and visibility into consumer behavior and purchase patterns.

Pointroll’s Ad Control product adds this dimension:  Create, deliver and measure unlimited creative and messaging combinations with dynamic ads that influence the right consumer at the right time with PointRoll’s AdControl.  Create: AdControl enables advertisers and their agencies to easily produce infinite ad combinations by mixing and matching various creative elements and dynamically generating a unique ad in real time. Connect: AdControl seamlessly leverages each possible creative combination and marries it with information known about the user to deliver the most relevant, customized ad experience based on characteristics such as geo, site, placement, or custom defined variables…AdControl gleans information about the consumer and turns this knowledge into a customized ad; ensuring the most relevant creative is served to each user…By mapping user characteristics to creative elements, AdControl can produce the right ad for the right consumer.

Microsoft Extends Behavioral Targeting to Mobile [Bing Will be Ringing & Tracking & Profiling]

Read this excerpt from the Microsoft Advertising announcement released today.  And ask if your privacy is really protected when they use your search data to target you over mobile devices for “financial services,” “lifestyles,” and other “behavioral segments.”

Today we launched our Mobile Behavioral Targeting Solution, which means all of the powerful behavioral targeting options, segments and categories previously only available on our online properties are now available to buyers of our mobile display inventory as well.

Mobile behavioral targeting enables advertisers to reduce advertising waste and maximize the impact and ROI of their mobile campaigns by targeting consumers who have already demonstrated an interest in specific product categories. Over one hundred behavioral segments across popular advertiser categories such as Automotive, Financial Services, Health, Lifestyle, Life Stages, News and Entertainment, Retail, Technology and Travel are available for purchase.

How does Microsoft measure behavior?

Microsoft Behavioral Targeting works by anonymously tracking behaviors of users and classifying these users into unique segments using information from the following data sources:

. PC Web keyword search behavior from Bing Search

. PC Web Site visits to various sites across the Microsoft network

. Microsoft network data (i.e. Hotmail newsletters, Xbox subscription data)

. Profile data from Windows Live

With Microsoft Mobile Behavioral Targeting, data from these sources and others is factored together along with its relevancy to create hundreds of unique, specific segments. Within these niches are the consumers who are most likely to be receptive to your message. Your mobile ads are served only to users in your desired segments, enabling you to refine your reach and increase your campaign’s performance. Simple yet powerful, Behavioral Targeting is one of the most effective and efficient forms of mobile advertising available today.

Here at Microsoft we understand that preserving consumer trust is essential to the success of our business. Microsoft maintains a strong focus on protecting customers’ privacy and adheres to high privacy standards. Our Mobile Behavioral Targeting Solutions do not utilize personally identifiable information (like name, address or phone number).

Network Neutrality, a Narrowed Internet and Digital TV [Attention DoJ, FTC & FCC]

It appears that the network neutrality fight now also must be focused on how new TV sets are connected to the Internet.  A narrow, closed universe, of digital lite applications are to be part of the new high definition television universe, according to Variety.  For example, new TV’s connect to a version of the Internet but haven’t been “built for full-fledged Web browsing.”   But these sets “will come pre-installed with targeted applications for specific websites, somewhat like iPhone apps.” [our emphasis]  Some 50 million people are predicted to have these Net-lite sets by 2013.

Variety explains that:  Indeed, apps are seen as the keys to success with Web-enabled TV. There are no plans for a central app store, but analysts say they wouldn’t be surprised to see one. For now manufacturers can “push” new apps onto TVs but viewers can’t add any themselves.  This puts manufacturers in the new position of deciding which sites gain access to their customers’ screens, and there is already talk that they are contemplating selling such access via revenue-sharing deals. 

The Obama Administration has been a strong supporter of network neutrality.  It should challenge this threat to competition and new threat designed to narrow the Internet.  Beyond concerns on openness and content diversity, it’s worth noting that some in the TV industry see the deliver of Internet services via TV’s a way to expand the impact of commercials and ads (since online video ad can’t be fast-forwarded or easily skipped).  These Net-enabled devices also raise important privacy and consumer protection issues.  Notes Variety, “[T]he new technology also could add power to an advertiser’s message, with consumers able to click a link and instantly learn more about a product — and with ads being better targeted based on a person’s viewing and browsing history.”

source:  Television’s killer app: New HD TVs equipped with internet connection.  Chris Morris.  Variety. August 14, 2009.