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    Associated Press: Internet privacy controls challenge tech industry

    The Associated Press reports on the problems that online controls to protect the privacy of Web users’ data can pose for technology companies, especially when it comes to online targeted behavioral advertising:

    The federal government has put Google, Microsoft, Apple and other technology companies on notice: Give consumers a way prevent advertisers from tracking their movements across the Web – or face regulation.

    Yet for all its innovative know-how and entrepreneurial spirit, the technology industry has yet to agree on a simple, meaningful solution to protect consumer privacy on the Internet.

    So privacy watchdogs and lawmakers are stepping up the pressure, calling for laws that would require companies to stop the digital surveillance of consumers who don’t want to be tracked. They argue that effective privacy tools are long overdue from an industry that typically moves at breakneck speed. […]

    Washington’s call to arms is a response to growing concern that invasive Internet marketing practices are eroding privacy online as every consumer move is observed, analyzed and harvested for profit.

    Online publishers, advertisers and ad networks use “cookies,” Web beacons and other sophisticated tracking tools to follow consumers around the Internet – monitoring what sites they visit and what links they click, what they search for and what they buy. Then they mine that information to deliver what they hope will be relevant pitches – a practice called behavioral advertising. […]

    One big part of the problem is that the industry needs to find a way to let consumers halt intrusive online marketing practices without preventing tracking critical for the Internet to function. […]

    The industry’s self-regulatory program, for one, does not turn off data collection. Consumers who install an opt-out cookie no longer receive targeted ads from participating companies, but may still be tracked for non-advertising purposes. That doesn’t satisfy privacy watchdogs.

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