The Federal Trade Commission is considering proposing a do-not-track mechanism that would allow consumers to easily opt out of all behavioral targeting, chairman Jon Leibowitz told lawmakers on Tuesday.
Testifying at a hearing about online privacy, Leibowitz said the FTC is exploring the feasibility of a browser plug-in that would store users' targeting preferences. He added that either the FTC or a private group could run the system.
Leibowitz said that while Web users on a no-tracking list would still receive online ads, those ads wouldn't be targeted based on sites that users had visited in the past.
Three years ago, a coalition of privacy groups including the World Privacy Forum, Center for Digital Democracy and Center for Democracy & Technology proposed that the FTC create a do-not-track registry, similar to the do-not-call registry. At the time, the online ad industry strongly opposed the idea of a government-run no-tracking list.
Currently, many people who want to opt out do so through cookies, either on a company-by-company basis or through the Network Advertising Initiative's opt-out cookie (which allows users to opt out of targeting from many of the largest companies). But those opt-outs aren't stable because they're tied to cookies, which often get deleted.
The Network Advertising Initiative recently rolled out a browser plug-in that enables consumers to opt out of targeted ads by NAI members.
Leibowitz also told lawmakers that he personally favored opt-in consent to behavioral targeting, or receiving ads based on sites visited. "I think opt-in generally protects consumers' privacy better than opt-out, under most circumstances," he said. "I don't think it undermines a company's ability to get the information it needs to advertise back to consumers."
Online ad companies say that behavioral targeting is "anonymous" because they don't collect users' names or other so-called personally identifiable information, but Leibowitz said that it might be possible to piece together users' names from clickstream data. He told lawmakers about AOL's "Data Valdez," which involved AOL releasing three months' of "anonymized" search queries for 650,000 users. Even though the company didn't directly tie the queries to users' names, some were identified based solely on the patterns in their search queries. Several lawmakers expressed concerns with behavioral advertising during Tuesday's hearing. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said she was "a little spooked out" about online tracking and ad targeting.
McCaskill said that after reading online about foreign SUVs, she noticed that she was receiving ads for such cars. "That's creepy," she said, likening it to someone following her with a camera and recording her moves.
She added that if an "average American" were to learn that someone was trailing him around stores with a camera, "there would be a hue and cry in this country that would be unprecedented."
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) both expressed concern that privacy policies weren't giving Web users enough useful information about online ad practices.
Rockefeller proposed that some companies were burying too much information in lengthy documents that consumers don't read. "Some would say the fine print is there and it's not our fault you didn't read it," he said, adding, "I say, that's a 19th-century mentality."
Kerry added that he didn't know that consumers understood how companies use data. "I'm not sure that there's knowledge in the caveat emptor component of this," he said.
Social cues, social responses, humans know when a computer is engaging themPosted on Wednesday, 2010, July 28, 17:18, by Eric Bryn, under social media, social media and direct marketing research.
This research paper from Nokia Research Center, Stanford, and Queens University implies that humans can ascertain with an uncanny degree of certainty when a social message is sent from a computer versus a human. Social responses to communication technologies theory (SRCT) predicts that humans cannot reliably ascertain such nuances. This research contradicts this premise.
The research team, using prior research in SRCT theories, tested whether humans could discern whether a text message was sent via a human or computer when flattery was an element of the message. They found that humans reliably discern the originator of the message apparently because certain social cues were missing in the computer-generated messages.
Why this is relevant research: SRCT theories could be used by software designers to create computer programs to engage social network users with the goal of getting them to increase self-disclosure under the guise of an interaction seemingly being conducted with a human. With the FTC recently considering allowing people to opt-out of behavioral targeting on the Web, the issue of nudging people towards more self-disclosure is timely given all the issues surrounding privacy and use of PII in social networks, especially if a user discloses such PII under the assumption they’re interacting with a human. This is a very interesting article and quick read (four pages).
ONLINE archaeology can yield surprising results. When John Kelly of Morningside Analytics, a market-research firm, recently pored over data from websites in Indonesia he discovered a “vast field of dead blogs”. Numbering several thousand, they had not been updated since May 2009. Like hastily abandoned cities, they mark the arrival of the Indonesian version of Facebook, the online social network.
Such swathes of digital desert are still rare in the blogosphere. And they should certainly not be taken as evidence that it has started to die. But signs are multiplying that the rate of growth of blogs has slowed in many parts of the world. In some countries growth has even stalled.
Blogs are a confection of several things that do not necessarily have to go together: easy-to-use publishing tools, reverse-chronological ordering, a breezy writing style and the ability to comment. But for maintaining an online journal or sharing links and photos with friends, services such as Facebook and Twitter (which broadcasts short messages) are quicker and simpler.
Charting the impact of these newcomers is difficult. Solid data about the blogosphere are hard to come by. Such signs as there are, however, all point in the same direction. Earlier in the decade, rates of growth for both the numbers of blogs and those visiting them approached the vertical. Now traffic to two of the most popular blog-hosting sites, Blogger and WordPress, is stagnating, according to Nielsen, a media-research firm. By contrast, Facebook’s traffic grew by 66% last year and Twitter’s by 47%. Growth in advertisements is slowing, too. Blogads, which sells them, says media buyers’ inquiries increased nearly tenfold between 2004 and 2008, but have grown by only 17% since then. Search engines show declining interest, too.
People are not tiring of the chance to publish and communicate on the internet easily and at almost no cost. Experimentation has brought innovations, such as comment threads, and the ability to mix thoughts, pictures and links in a stream, with the most recent on top. Yet Facebook, Twitter and the like have broken the blogs’ monopoly. Even newer entrants such as Tumblr have offered sharp new competition, in particular for handling personal observations and quick exchanges. Facebook, despite its recent privacy missteps, offers better controls to keep the personal private. Twitter limits all communication to 140 characters and works nicely on a mobile phone.
A good example of the shift is Iran. Thanks to the early translation into Persian of a popular blogging tool (and crowds of journalists who lacked an outlet after their papers were shut down), Iran had tens of thousands of blogs by 2009. Many were shut down, and their authors jailed, after the crackdown that followed the election in June of that year. But another reason for the dwindling number of blogs written by dissidents is that the opposition Green Movement is now on Facebook, says Hamid Tehrani, the Brussels-based Iran editor for Global Voices, a blog news site. Mir Hossein Mousavi, one of the movement’s leaders, has 128,000 Facebook followers. Facebook, explains Mr Tehrani, is a more efficient way to reach people.
The future for blogs may be special-interest publishing. Mr Kelly’s research shows that blogs tend to be linked within languages and countries, with each language-group in turn containing smaller pockets of densely linked sites. These pockets form around public subjects: politics, law, economics and knowledge professions. Even narrower specialisations emerge around more personal topics that benefit from public advice. Germany has a cluster for children’s crafts; France, for food; Sweden, for painting your house.
Such specialist cybersilos may work for now, but are bound to evolve further. Deutsche Blogcharts says the number of links between German blogs dropped last year, with posts becoming longer. Where will that end? Perhaps in a single, hugely long blog posting about the death of blogs.
How to Save the News
Plummeting newspaper circulation, disappearing classified ads, “unbundling” of content—the list of what’s killing journalism is long. But high on that list, many would say, is Google, the biggest unbundler of them all. Now, having helped break the news business, the company wants to fix it—for commercial as well as civic reasons: if news organizations stop producing great journalism, says one Google executive, the search engine will no longer have interesting content to link to. So some of the smartest minds at the company are thinking about this, and working with publishers, and peering ahead to see what the future of journalism looks like. Guess what? It’s bright.
Photos by Robyn Twomey/Redux (Above: Hal Varian, Google's chief economist)
From "How to Save the News" By James Fallows
An incredibly provocative article about Google's apparent intent to move into the news industry, in an attempt to incentivize, rather than stifle content creation.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
10 Social Media FAQs
Oh yes, we understand the anxiety businesses go through when they are taking their first step in using social media. This anxiety results in plenty of questions. Top management always wants more information, and they actually have them! Google has indexed a vast number of case studies and resources. In fact, information overload seems like a bigger problem now.
Through Tania’s (@unfluff) experience as an Ogilvy Digital Strategist, she has listed and explained 10 of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) in the slides below.
These aren’t the typical slides that we normally see. The answers are all written in Twitter style – short and sweet, and understanding the slides will take no longer than 3 minutes.
Feel free to drop a comment if you have more questions, we’ll gladly answer them for you. Oh, and don’t forget to check out Tania’s interview here. It contains some very useful social media marketing tips.