Advertisers’ role in privacy policy

April 23, 2009

The privacychoice philosophy (or shall we say, working hypothesis) is that technology can provide consumers with meaningful and actionable choices when it comes to their privacy.  While inevitably there will be a regulatory layer to privacy policy, the depth of that layer depends a lot on how well the media and advertising industries embrace and apply privacy technologies.

So it’s interesting to consider whether all of the “industry players” are pulling their weigh in helping resolve privacy controversy.  The hammer comes down on ad networks, and to a lesser extent, publishers, but where are the big advertisers in all this?

The question comes from Chad Little of Fetchback, writing in MediaPost.

I think that it’s time for advertisers to step up in this privacy debate. Thus far the pressure for disclosure has been placed on networks, behavioral marketing providers and publishers. The key players in those industries have done a good job of becoming more transparent (though there is still work ahead of us), while advertisers haven’t been asked to do anything. Advertisers are clearly benefiting from behavioral marketing, and its time they disclosed what type of behavioral marketing they participate in, and allow customers to opt-out. How they do this is open for discussion: Tag each ad with an opt-out of future ads from the same company? Put a notice on manufacturer’s page with the headline “Did You Know We Are Tracking You?” that links to a kinder, gentler explanation?

It’s an excellent point, and he’s right to think about exactly how this could work in terms of disclosure that happens in the distribution of the advertising itself.  In a sense, is the problem solved in the Google Way, where the landing page explains what tracking is going on, which is naturally associated with the advertiser by virtue of the ad itself?

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