Behavioral targeting works by ISP or search engines gathering the activities of the web surfers and resell to advertising agencies for deeper data mining of users’ profiles for the use of future promotion.
(An example of Metro Radio email advertising)
What is the ethical problem?
According to a survey done by Truste (posted in MediaPost during March 2008) , majority of people realized that ISP or search engines tracks their Web browsing behavior for purposes to sending them targeted advertising materials. Half of the respondents said they were not comfortable with this practice, even though the information did not contain personal information such as names, age or address etc. More important was majority of Web users told researchers they felt the irrelevant ads ‘intrusive and annoying.’
The argument behind is IP address should be respected as a kind of personal information similar as telephone number. When somebody who is not willing to expose their tracks online, they certainly would feel being intruded and have a bad feeling to the irrelevant advertising materials reaching them.
Some ISPs such as AT&T requires an “affirmative consent” from users to allow the ISP using their information for future tracking and targeting. However it is always overlooked by web surfers as they just quickly click to consent the choice to begin browsing.
Online privacy on the whole is not easy to tackle. On one hand we need to protect the privacy of web users, but on the other hand the ISP or search engines do own the data. Perhaps Permission marketing equipped with incentive schemes is a solution to the issue.
The Ethics of Behavioral Targeting by Wally Snyder Jul 16th 2008 <http://www.aafblog.org/blog/>
Strategy, Implementation and Practice, 3rd edition, Financial Times & Prentice Hall, 2006. Chaffey, Dave, Richard Mayer, Kevin Johnston, and Fiona Ellis-Chadwick
Posted by Jonathan Lau