Posts Tagged ‘BlueKai’

The First Principle of Fairness in Ad Targeting

October 26, 2010

BlueKai and Efficient Frontier announced a pilot program that targets ads based on keywords that are inferred from consumer behavior across BlueKai’s network. It seems like a significant competitive development, since advertisers can now simply use their existing Google AdWords lists to program ad buying.

Under the agreement, Efficient Frontier will participate in a beta program where client keyword lists will be submitted to BlueKai and matched against intent data segments. Efficient Frontier will then use this set of intent data to drive targeting for display advertising against the qualified audience. Buying BlueKai Intent™ by keywords will enable search marketers to identify in-market audiences – defined by existing search keyword lists – and reach them outside the walls of search engines with any media partner and at significant scale.

BlueKai has always been a leader in giving consumers a view to their own ad profile, true to what I consider to be the First Principle of Fairness in Ad Targeting: If the advertiser can buy against a characteristic of the profile, then the consumer should be able to see it and delete it. It’s hard to think of a principled reason why you wouldn’t provide this visibility, which makes it surprising that even some of the largest players still fail to do so and the NAI doesn’t require it.

Assuming BlueKay stays true to the Principle, I’m watching to see keywords appear in my own entry in the BlueKai Registry sometime soon.

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Opting-in with Search and Share

April 22, 2010

The PrivacyChoice project started nearly a year ago with this goal: Help make consumer privacy choices understandable and actionable.

To this end, we created tools for users and websites to understand how behavioral information is collected. We have compiled a comprehensive public database of online tracking companies and privacy practices. Through this blog, we have provided a choice-driven perspective on developments in the ad-targeting ecosystem. We have interacted privately with scores of ad networks to make privacy disclosure and processes more effective. Driven by word-of-mouth, PrivacyChoice has facilitated opt-outs for nearly 200,000 visitors, comprising nearly 10 million opt-out transactions.

Now it’s time to explore the other choice a consumer may want to make when it comes to their online interests and advertising: the decision to opt-in.

The idea of Search and Share is simple: Enable consumers to easily capture some of the advertising value of their own searches, and put that value to use for causes they select. Consumer searches create billions of dollars in value for companies like Google. Why shouldn’t consumers have a greater stake?

How it works. Install the Search and Share browser add-on (Firefox or Chrome) and you will see an new button on Google — “Search and Share.” Use it and your search query is made available not only to Google, but also to other selected advertising companies who pay for that anonymous data, in order to target ads more effectively. All of the proceeds go to causes you select, and you stay in touch with those causes through subtle messages and tweets next to your search results. You can search in the same way as you always do, and nothing else about your Google search experience will change.

What it means for user privacy. Search and Share adheres to three key privacy requirements:

  • Anonymity. No registration is required. No email or other personal information is required or collected. Participating ad companies collect no personal information and have committed to keep users anonymous.
  • Control. The user can always choose whether to share a particular search; each instance of data sharing involves choice. (And the functionality is completely disabled when the user chooses private browsing mode.) The ‘Search and Share” button continuously reminds the user that the service is present. The cause messages that appear on search results pages confirm that a search has been shared. Uninstallation is easy, and includes a one-click opt-out from all networks.
  • Transparency. For each search they share, the user can see the companies who received it and their policies. Each participating ad company also provides consumers with a view of the interests in their profile.

Who’s behind it. A great group of folks have come together to support the Search and Share project, from Cause Ambassadors to add-on developers. We’re also grateful for the support of NAI members Lotame and BlueKai, as participating ad companies.

As a companion project to PrivacyChoice, Search and Share gives me an opportunity to see the privacy landscape through two new and important perspectives: First, that of the publisher seeking to monetize an audience of consumers, and second, that of the consumer who is comfortable with interest-based advertising and now has an even more tangible reason to engage with it.

I’ll report back as we start to promote the service and gather consumer input. Please give it a try, and learn more about the details in our FAQ. Your comments will be much appreciated.

Phorm: Behavioral data has value and we’re prepared to pay consumers for it

April 12, 2009

Although Phorm’s methods may be controversial, this is an important acknowledgement:  

Ertugrul confirmed that the firm is looking at ways to convince users to opt-in to receiving its targeted ads. Incentives could include financial incentives or charity donations, he said.

via Phorm Incentives Could Entice Users to Allow Targeting – ClickZ.

(Blue Kai has made similar noises, although appeared to take a step back recently.)

It is usually a good development when market forces start to work.  The notion of online privacy — in the sense of freedom from tracking — is vague now, and individuals differ widely in their level of concern.  Once consumers have control over if and how their information is used, it can then be valued and more appropriately protected.

BlueKai adopts (unclear) six month retention policy (and other changes)

April 6, 2009

capture3Some notable (and otherwise unannounced) changes on the BlueKai website when it comes to privacy, on this page.

They have dropped the references to providing incentives to consumers for being profiled — which amounted to a sort of charitable rewards program for folks who helped build their interests profile.  Gone is this language (emphasis mine):

It’s all about choice, reward, and privacy.

Much like with commercials on television, online consumers like you are familiar with receiving messages from marketers in exchange for free or subsidized content across the Internet. While BlueKai has not come up with a solution to eliminate advertising altogether, we’ve created an anonymous registry of online preferences that helps you manage and control what marketers know about you.

In return, you, the consumer, are rewarded with the 3C’s: control, charity, and content.

Control—With the BlueKai registry, you can control and manage your online preferences by selecting or de-selecting topics of interest. Your preferences may be used anonymously to influence which types of marketing messages you receive across partner sites that we work with. Or you can choose to not participate at all. (But we encourage you to read on before you decide!)

Charity—It gets better! When marketers pay to access anonymous data from BlueKai, you will be rewarded with a credit to donate to the charity of your choice.

Content—By voluntarily sharing your online preferences, you’re helping marketers provide polite and relevant marketing to you, while they continue to pay the publishers who manage the Web sites you frequent. In return, you will continue to reap the benefits of free content that is available across the Internet.

The top-level messaging now focuses only on transparency and choice, not so much on incentives, and no mention of donations to charity (although their process to modify your own preferences retains the references to selecting a charity — I assume this means the program still operates). 

Also, some interesting things on this new page:

  • Data Retention Policy – Effective May 1, 2009, BlueKai will retain data for no more than six months after the day of collection.
  • Permanent Opt Out – Opt out mechanisms currently rely on the “cookie” technology which means once cookies are erased from a computer, the opt-out preference is also forgotten. BlueKai believes a “permanent opt-out” technology is a better solution for delivering on the promise of choice and privacy to consumers. It is a key initiative for BlueKai to work with various online media constituents to drive industry consensus and adoption on consumer opt-out.
  • Consumer Outreach Program – What good are consumer programs if consumers don’t know about it or use it? To this point, BlueKai is planning to work with key industry players to create awareness on consumer opt-out and transparency programs. The goal is to instill confidence and an understanding of data and ad targeting across the Internet that supports consumer control.

The six-month rentention policy is new, and when implemented will be a change from their current privacy statement, which  says:

We retain Preference Data and other information for so long as we have a business-related need to retain it. Generally, we retain Preference Data for no longer than two years.

It is very important to understand how the six month restriction will work in practice.  Does it mean that the entirety of a consumer’s profile at any given moment is comprised only of behaviors gathered in the preceding six months?  Or does it mean simply that any specific record of individual behavioral events is only retained for six months, but the classification of the consumer based on those events is retained indefinitely (and therefore targetable)?  And does the same retention policy apply to any third party service which had access to the same information from BlueKai?

This is not nitpicking — your average consumer hears “six month retention” and would expect that to mean that their profile will expire everywhere after that period.  The policy statement needs to be clear on this point, and right now it isn’t.

The endorsement of permanent cookie settings is commendable.  I will be in touch with them about how this can be faciliated within the coming privacychoice browser plugin.

POST UPDATED 4/6 per information from BlueKai (thanks!).