/ May 22, 2008

FTC Proposes Limits to "Behavioral Targeting"

The advent of the internet has raised some harrowing questions regarding the interplay between privacy and free content. In an attempt to address this new frontier, the FTC recently proposed a new set of guidelines, developed with the input of town hall meetings, regulating the tracking of internet usage history. By allowing users to opt out of cookies when visiting the websites that tracking companies follow, the FTC looks to maintain the privacy of indivuals in the face of behavioral targeting.

Some pro-privacy activist groups are attacking the practice, which allows advertisers to increase revenue by pushing ads relevant to a person’s browsing history, arguing that over time individual profiles could reveal a person’s identity. However, several industries, such as the news media, oppose the new guidelines, maintaining that these types of practices are necessary to keep content free during their transition to the internet. While the FTC guidelines would be voluntary, some states may follow suit with mandatory laws, making some nervous that the already low returns on internet ads could fall even further.

Source: Washington Post

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