Targeted Advertising: Opt-In Only?

| Behavioral Marketing

In MediaPost’s coverage of Undertone joining the NAI, the article ends with fair balance to some privacy advocates that say the NAI does not go far enough. Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, states that consent must be opt-in only. The NAI and many others take the stance that, as long as no personally identifiable information (PII) is collected, user information can be used for targeting advertisements.

While I can understand the desire for behaviorally targeting ads to be opt-in only, is this really necessary? And where’s the precedent for this? Consider the shopper card for your local grocery store that you might be carrying. That card identifies you explicitly down to your name and address, among other PII. Then it tracks your shopping habits to determine what coupons you should receive. Some of these coupons are printed when you checkout, others may be mailed to you via e-mail or snail mail. Did you opt-in to this marketing? Well, technically, yes – when you signed up to receive the card. But do you remember reading the fine print about the marketing you’d receive?

PII has been the gold standard online for awhile now, and it seems to serve us well. If we’re all going to see ads on the Web anyway, why not see ones that might pertain to our surfing and shopping habits? And isn’t it better that we get those ads through a vehicle that does not actually know who we are?

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