Behavioral Advertising and Privacy
About Behaviorally targeted advertising, World Privacy Forum testimony and Comments, resources
What is "behaviorally targeted advertising"?
Some of the advertising that is done online comes with hooks. Using a variety of technologies, some largely unseen, online advertisers can track online activities, sometimes in profound ways that consumers are not expecting. Not all online advertising has "hooks" that are problematic or that raise privacy challenges. But a type of advertising called "behaviorally targeted advertising" often does. Behavioral advertising has two key components: tracking and targeting.
There are privacy issues with behavioral tracking and targeting, and there are also fairness issues. For example, if a person is searching the web for information on a serious genetic disease, that information can be collected and stored along with that consumer's other information -- including information that can uniquely identify the consumer. How is that information used? Does the person have a meaningful choice about whether it is collected or used? Does the person have the right to delete information that may be harmful if associated with him or her, such as information that could be shared about a genetically-linked condition? These and many other questions arise in the context of behaviorally targeted advertising.
Not all advertising is inherently bad. The World Privacy Forum has no
complaint about legitimate advertising; our complaint is with intrusive
World Privacy Forum Reports and Information about Behavioral Advertising
The World Privacy Forum has been active in the behavioral advertising debate, most particularly on the privacy aspects of some practices. Here is a collection of our reports, testimony, comments, and resources on this issue.
Released November 2007
This World Privacy Forum Report documents in detail the history and failures of the first FTC/industry self-regulation effort, the Network Advertising Initiative or NAI.
Filed with the Federal Trade Commission April 2008
World Privacy Forum comments to the FTC regarding its proposed online advertising principles from December 2007. WPF urged the FTC to think beyond a voluntary regime led by industry and to provide meaningful transparency, choice, and privacy for consumers in light of the of the demonstrated problems with behaviorally targeted advertising. The WPF also urged the FTC to define "sensitive information," especially in light of the large amount of medical information going online. The WPF took a position that advertising should never be targeted based on genetic information.
Testimony: Privacy and Online Advertising: Self-regulation's track record in the sector
FTC workshop, November 2007
World Privacy Forum Testimony on the failure of the FTC's first self-regulatory plan, the Network Advertising Initiative.
Consensus document: Consumer Rights and Protections in the Behavioral Advertising Sector
Released October 2007
Joint Comments to the FTC: this is a consensus document originating from a two-day meeting the World Privacy Forum held in October of 2007.
Cookie opt-out page:
The online advertising self-regulatory plan operates by a little-known method called the "opt-out cookie." This World Privacy Forum resource links to the opt-out cookies and explains more about how it all works.
Behavioral Advertising Timeline
It is useful to see how behaviorally targeted advertising is developing over time. This mini timeline traces the key developments in this issue and helps give a quick mapping of events.
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