Online Advertisers Targeted in Privacy Moves

With behavioural targeting and privacy becoming hot internet issues, a coalition of consumer and privacy advocacy groups is taking their fight for online rights to Capitol Hill.

Their joint letter to Congress, ahead of an impending bill, warns that the “tracking and targeting of consumers online have reached alarming levels.”

The sizeable coalition – its members are Consumer Action, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, Consumer Watchdog, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Privacy Lives, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, US Public Interest Research Group and the World Privacy Forum – says industry self-regulation has not provided meaningful consumer protection and legislation is needed.

Representative Rick Boucher, chairman of the House sub-committee on communications, technology and the internet, intends to introduce a consumer online privacy bill on Tuesday.

“Consumers need rights, and profiling should have limits. Behavioural tracking and targeting can be used to take advantage of vulnerable individuals, or to unfairly discriminate against people,” the coalition says.

“The potential misuse of health or financial information is especially troubling. The assumptions that can be made about people based on behavioural tracking may have detrimental consequences for them. Online profiles may also be obtained by government agencies, private investigators, and others for purposes that go far beyond advertising.”

Among the specific goals recommended in any legislation, the coalition says an individual should have the right to be told if a behavioural tracker has information on them, be able to obtain a copy of the data and request that all the data be removed.

While Facebook has been garnering most attention of late with  its moves to spread personal information across the web, the coalition’s comments are aimed more at online advertising practices – a target of the bill.

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