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    Wall Street Journal: Marketers Watch as Friends Interact Online

    The Wall Street Journal has a story about advertisers creating massive profiles of individual consumers:

    [S]ome big marketers, including Sprint and eBay, are turning to small start-ups to help them tap social-networking data to find would-be clients among the friends and acquaintances of existing customers, to the dismay of some privacy advocates.

    EBay, for instance, used online tracking technologies to identify customers who browsed or shopped for products in the clothing, shoes and accessories section of its site. It then turned to New York-based start-up 33Across, which analyzed data from social-networking sites to map out the connections between the customers eBay had identified and other Web surfers, in order to serve up ads at the right time and place.

    New York-based 33Across tracks how consumers interact with one another—commenting on posts or sharing messages, for instance—across about 20 sites, online networks and third-party application companies, which build software like games and quizzes for social-networking sites. 33Across says those sites reach a total of 100 million monthly unique U.S. visitors. […]

    33Across is one of a handful of start-ups, such as Media6-Degrees and Lotame, that aim to make use of the reams of Internet user data behind social-networking sites for ad targeting. They all use complex algorithms to track connections between consumers. 33Across says it tracks five billion connections, then weighs them to determine the closest ties. […]

    Not surprisingly, such tracking of friends and acquaintances has attracted the attention of some lawmakers and regulators. Such ad-targeting approaches are facing increased scrutiny from federal regulators who are investigating privacy issues tied to the Internet. Some lawmakers, concerned about Internet privacy, say they are preparing to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make more transparent Web sites’ tactics for collecting information on their users.

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