Privacy Advocates Take Aim at RTB


ftc_smallADOTAS – I opened my inbox this morning to be greeted by a searing press release from privacy advocate Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) — already I knew it was going to be a fun day.

The Federal Trade Commission — you know, those guys that run the data privacy forums and write ambiguous blogger disclosure regulations — has been sent a 32-page joint complaint from the CDD, U.S. PIRG and the World Privacy Forum urging the commission to investigate the threat to online consumer privacy within the real-time data-targeting auction and exchange marketplace. Labeling RTB and exchanges a “massive and stealth data collection apparatus” (my goodness, that does sound ominous), the complaint name-drops everyone from Google and Yahoo to PubMatic, TARGUSinfo, MediaMath, eXelate, The Rubicon Project, AppNexus and Rocket Fuel.

Technologies that enable real-time profiling, targeting and auctioning are largely unknown by consumers, the report argues, but quickly becoming widespread. More disturbing to the privacy advocates is the growing lineup of outside data sources with consumer details that are being sold online. Neither FTC policy nor industry self-regulation has gone far enough to protect consumers.

“FTC inaction has encouraged the data collection and ad targeting industry to expand the use of consumer information for personalized advertising,” Chester added in the press release. “The commission’s failure to adequately protect the privacy of consumer transactions online, including those that involve financial and other sensitive information, is irresponsible.”

The privacy advocates’ demands aren’t unreasonable but are likely to make exchangers grimace, or at least roll their eyes — consumer opt-in and more transparent privacy policies are front and center. But there is one that’s kinda interesting: “Ensure that consumers receive fair financial compensation for the use of their data.” The complaint argues that publishers, ad exchangers and information brokers are cheating individual consumers out of the benefits inherent in their data.

It’s the old “Whose data is it anyway?” game. Whose side do you fall on?


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