Call to legislate internet privacy and Google’s new interest based advertising

After my Advertising and marketing meets Johnny Law post, two interesting things have emerged on internet privacy. Check out the news from the NY times blog and the Google public policy blog (one of my favourite blogs to read).

I’ve copied some of the more pertinent parts of the article below. 

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Call to Legislate Internet Privacy

The debate on Internet privacy has begun in Congress.

Rick Boucher
Phil McCarten/Reuters
Representative Rick Boucher

I had a chance to sit down recently with Representative Rick Boucher, the long-serving Virginia Democrat, who has just replaced Ed Markey, the Democrat from Massachusetts, as the chairman of the House Subcommittee looking after telecommunications, technology and the Internet. Mr. Boucher is widely regarded as one of the most technologically savvy members of Congress……..

But high on his list is a topic that is very much under his discretion: passing a bill to regulate the privacy of Internet users.

“Internet users should be able to know what information is collected about them and have the opportunity to opt out,” he said.

While he hasn’t written the bill yet, Mr. Boucher said that he, working with Representative Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who is the ranking minority member on the subcommittee, wants to require Web sites to disclose how they collect and use data, and give users the option to opt out of any data collection. That’s not a big change from what happens now, at least on most big sites.

But in what could be a big change from current practice, Mr. Boucher wants sites to get explicit permission from users — an “opt in” — if they are going to share information with other companies.

“I think that strikes the right balance,” he said. “Web site operators are very concerned that if they have an opt-in regime for the internal marketing of the Web site themselves it would be very disruptive. The default position of most Internet users will be not to check any boxes at all. It is a very different matter if the site takes the information and sells it to gain revenue.”

I spoke to Mr. Boucher on the day that Google announced its new plan to track data about customers for advertising. And I asked him about such behavioral targeting, which presents an ad based on what you did on other sites.

For the rest of it here

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Google’s announcement on interest based advertising


 Check out this article on Google’s new privacy controls here and Google’s take on it via their public policy blog. This is exactly the point I was making in my post about relevancy of advertising v privacy of information:

“In her post to the Official Google Blog this morning, Susan Wojcicki, VP of Product Management, announced that we are making interest-based advertising available in beta for our AdSense partner sites and YouTube. Interest-based advertising uses information about the web pages people visit to make the online ads they see more relevant. Relevant advertising, in turn, has fueled the content, products and services available on the Internet today.

Providing such advertising has proven to be a challenging policy issue for advertisers, publishers, internet companies and regulators over the last decade. On the one hand, well-tailored ads benefit consumers, advertisers, and publishers alike. On the other hand, the industry has long struggled with how to deliver relevant ads while respecting users’ privacy.”

 

I will discuss it in more detail when I get my head around all this information. 

When advertising & marketing meets Johnny Law

Last night I watched American Gangster (again!) featuring Denzel Washington, one of my favourite actors. I’ve seen it before when I was visiting New York in a Times Square movie theatre. Denzel, uses the “johnny law” phrase a few times when talking about paying off “Johnny Law” i.e. paying cops to turn a blind eye to his nefarious activities.

I’ve always been curious about technology and the law. And now more so. Technology is an evolving beast, where the business models are constantly changing and new competitors, trends, viral campaigns emerge overnight. Whilst the law is seen as conservative, slow to adapt, and very traditional. Generalisations yes, but ask any lawyer or laymen and they’ll agree with these perceptions. Evidently, these two are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The law seeks to maintain order and protect society, yet also to enable the creation of new ideas and businesses. The internet is disruptive, fast moving, changing and global in its reach. Law is often seen as jursidictional, often applying to only member states (i.e on country by country basis) unless treaties are ratified by Member states.

On Wednesday morning, I attended an Advertising and Marketing law CLE. What is a CLE? It means “continuing legal education”. For those that are unaware, I’m still a qualified lawyer (amongst other things) and to maintain your status as a lawyer, you need undertake ongoing education. It might involve some lectures, preparing presenting a lecture, or watching some videos.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this lecture but went with an open mind. I heard the following lectures:

1. New commercial models in advertising and marketing using the internet 
2. Comparative advertising 101
3. Copyright in advertising
4. Children & the law

Topic 1: New commercial models in advertising and marketing using the internet 

They were well presented, but the most useful to me was probably Internet Business models by Peter Leonard. Peter is a partner at Gilbert & Tobin, and counts Google amongst his clients. He described some basics about adwords and how it worked – I knew most of this stuff since I do some work on adwords. However, he had some really interesting points on whitelisting v blacklisting of keywords, something which I was not aware of. 

Blacklisting of keywords

Apparently, some brandnames are “blacklisted” on google, so advertisers can’t use them. For example, “Toyota” can only be used by Toyota. A car reseller, wholesaler, etc… can’t use that term. People are very careful which words they blacklist since it does not enable to aforementioned parties to advertise on google. And google applies this policy on a global basis. So if Toyota actually had a reseller in china under a distribution arrangement, they could not buy that keyword to sell a Toyota car.

Contextual and behavioural advertising

The other relevant thing he discussed was contexutal and behavioural advertising, which is becoming quite a big area in the online marketing world. Advertising has always been about relevancy and recency. Erwin Ephron developed the recency theory which is about showing someone an ad when they are in the mood to purchase. The idea of “top of mind”. It’s not about showing them an ad 3 times to get it to stick, rather at the right time when they want to buy. I believe that is what behavioural advertising and contextual advertising seeks to do as well – tying relevancy and recency together. 

 Behavioural looks at your past behaviour on the internet – which websites you’ve been to, how you use the internet. Contextual advertising is 3rd party advertising based on the content on the website (i.e. your current session on the web).  The whole idea is to serve you more relevant ads. Websites now, may reserve a space on their site for advertising local content to you based on your IP address – you’ve probabaly seen it! Look at an American website, yet its giving you ads for Australian flights or credit cards. Online advertising has gotten smarter. It was really insightful because at ad:tech and even in my work, these are topics which people are talking about. third party advertising, serving of ads, affiliate marketing, etc… On the flip side, there are privacy concerns, because your ISP tracks where you’ve been and keeps all the information about each individiual user. To me, this is also two competing concerns – serving you more relevant ads v capturing your private information.

It enhances the user experience and the advertising by having geographically and behavioural based ads, but aren’t you worried that someone is keeping tabs on you?

Other interesting points he discussed was how keywords get bought, and the difficulty of proving trademark infringement for keywords. Since the prices and the allocation of paid ads on Google was constantly changing, its hard to prove in such a dynamic environment. 

I must admit the other seminars weren’t as relevant to me or as interesting, hence my interest did drop off. Copyright issues in advertising were ok, about database compliation and the rights attached to that. Children and the law & comparative advertising was extremely boring, but still handy to know. I learnt that advertising needs to get clearance from legals, very important so you don’t get sued (!) and meets all legal and regulatory requirements. Also, there’s so many various regulatory codes for each type of media (radio, tv, outdoor) and legislation. 

I’m out like Johnny Law, 

Matthew Ho.

Blogs as a source of authority – ReadWriteWeb’s v Wikipedia

Occassionally I read the website “ReadWriteWeb“. It’s a blog about online/digital media. They recently discovered that they were blacklisted by Wikipedia after a contributor tried to link them as a source. The editor Richard MacManus made his submission via the usual process, by submitting his case on Media Wiki talk pages and the debate was fleshed out. He also submitted his case on his blog, getting even more attention since it is a top 20 blog. The debate from Wikipedia admins, contributors, the ensuing comments on his blog, as well as the decision to remove has all been interesting.

This was the comment I left on his blog:

“I think this is a fascinating article and case study on why ReadWriteWeb was blacklisted on Wikpedia. I can see why they blacklisted you, but that should have been against you personally not the blog for some comments that you made 3 years ago.

I read your blog occassionally, because it was starting to get referenced and digg’d – so obviously the wider community thinks it is a good source of web 2.0 info. the fact that your syndicated by NYT only adds to the arguement that you should be removed, and rightfully that has happened.

I’m still curious to the general debate of whether blogs can be a seen as a credible source of information, not only for wikipedia but also for reference purposes (academic and in general). what about blogs outside the top 20?”

Background

By way of background ReadWriteWeb’s editor must have done something dodgy whether inadvertently or on purpose, by adding his website multiple times as a source of reference. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but it came to the attention of the editors and the was a bit of war of words and the editor used some not so nice words. This happened three years ago. We all know that even one year in the internet industry is like 7 years in the real world (Sidenote: I’m approaching one year in the industry). The pace of change and practices change quite rapidly. As one of my colleagues, Aaron noted, the business models change.

ReadWriteWeb is clearly a well known source of web 2.0 info. It is ranked #17 out of all blogs on the internet for readership with 275,000 RSS subscribers. It has content syndication with the New York Times – they use it in their tech blogs for additional content. It was the only blog in the top 20 blacklisted. The majority of those blogs even have their own wikipedia page! If it wasn’t for the personal actions of the editor and the original comments of Hu12 admin stating that blogs as a source are not verifiable/reliable/credible because they are self published, this would have never seen the light of day.

Which really brings me to a related issue:

Can blogs be citied as as source of authority, whether in wikipedia or in general?

I want to repost some of the comments I found on the Wiki spam page, arguing the case for submission. More importantly it is their views on blogs as a source of authority which I want to highlight. As a former law grad raised on evidence law, legal referencing and even simple academic guidelines, I find it very fascinating.

Why RWW was originally rejected

Comment by Hu12:

* Blogs, and Blog sites are Link normally to be avoided
* ReadWriteWeb Fails Wikipedia’s core content policies:
* ”Verifiability”
o ” Questionable_sources”
o “Verifiable Reliable Sources”
o ”Self-published sources (online and paper)”
* ”Reliable sources”
o ”Self-published sources”

1. Arguement for removal:

“I am a regular reader of RWW and I believe that it qualifies as a legitimate osurce for news and information. They do not merely recycle press releases but actually engage directly as journalists, talking directly to technology leaders and performing original reporting. The question of whether it is a “blog” and therefore does not merit inclusion is a red herring as the very definition of “blog” is vague (chronologically ordered website? the same could be said of the New York Times). Really a “blog” is just a content management software package that runs underneath a website but does not dictate what the site’s purpose is. Granted a tech blog hosted on blogspot.com or wordpress.com (free hosts) is probably on the far side of the line dividing legitimate sources of information, but RWW is far from that and should not be lumped into that category. I dont feel that th etraffic/readership issues are salient, but as far as credibility goes, RWW enjoys the same press status as print magazines, and should be treated in teh same manner. I have no affiliation with RWW whatsoever, though I do maintain several blogs of my own and write for BeliefNet.

Regards, Aziz Poonawalla

2. Arguement for removal:

Respectfully, I’m floored that this discussion is taking place at all in 2009. There are published tabloids and even minor newspapers with less credibility that ReadWriteWeb. This distinction between ‘blogs’ and ‘newspapers’ is worse than archaic; it fundamentally dismisses the immense disruption in the media industry. Blogs like that are more transparent and verifiable than many papers by virtue of their readership and topicality. And, frankly, there’s an odd double standard at play. Mashable, TechCrunch and GigaOm all have their own entries in Wikipedia and cover similar beats. Moreover, at least in this editor’s opinion, Marshall and Richard’s credibility on certain topics has proven to be more viable than the posts on at least one of those sites. I strongly urge the Wikipedia community to remove this blacklisting and reconsider its policy around blogs. It made sense in 2004. In 2009, there are now major blogs at the New Yorker, the Atlantic and the New York Times. Because the form is a reverse chronologically ordered list of entries, does it suddenly become an unreliable tabloid? I think not. Vetting should be based upon more than that, particularly the expertise and proven track record of the writer. That expert vetting is important to both Britannica and Wikipedia going forward. I hope you all get it right here.

-Alexander B. Howard

My thoughts

I’m going to talk about the topic in general, not specifically readwriteweb. I think the editor blew it a bit out of proportion but I’m glad he did because he highlighted a very good issue that had attracted a lot of intelligent debate.

Blog when they first started becoming developed were self published and generally, were not really edited for quality. However, nowadays, many newspapers, companies, communities, and groups are using blogs. They are becoming very professional in nature, similar to newspapers and books. Within their genre, they can be highly authoratative. In some cases, blogs have the same status in the media as newspapers and books. If the readership, editorial quality, sources, reputation and most importantly their content is credible, they why can’t they be referenced? If the New York Times can be referenced, why can’t their NYT blog be referenced? It usually written by the same writers and probably goes through the same level of editorial review as regular print articles. If the blog writer does their research, links to their sources and does proper journalistic investigation, how is that any less credible?

Of course not all blogs are like this. There is a lot of rubbish out there too (but then so are some books!). To dismiss blogs as inclusion in wikipedia because they are self published it is a futile argument, since wikipedia itself is self published. Can the wider community use blogs as a reference for example a student writing an assignment? Just like other sources, it should go through a rigurous criteria however, it would be slightly different since it is an online source. The fact is print and newspaper readership is dying out, and online has become a new source of information. A lot of news and information can come from blogs – it has been embraced by the public and is gaining ground as a source of info.

Look at wikipedia itself. The first time I heard of it was when my manager send me a link about wooden pylon term a client of ours was using. This was 4 years ago, when wikipedia was still in its infancy. Now, wikipedia is seen as just as credible as Encylopedia Britannica. They have tests and it matches up as a source of credible information. Encyclopedia Britannica itself is moving to a wikipedia type model, where users can submit content and there are professional staff editing the content. Whether they can keep up is another question!

You have to examine each blog on its own merit – not all blogs can be referenced. I will write some more thoughts about this later as I have to head off but I leave you with the wikipedia policy on verifiability and the reason why Read Write Web was removed:

1. The use of links to ReadWriteWeb is not disruptive. If an individual editor is repeatedly adding spam links to it, have an administrator block that editor.
2. While ReadWriteWeb may or may not be reliable, non-reliability on its part would not, in and of itself, justify blacklisting the website.
3. ReadWriteWeb is well-known and publicly objects to the inclusion on the blacklist. The perception of Wikipedia as unfairly blocking the use of links to the website is not helpful to Wikipedia, whether or not the blacklisting is otherwise justified.
4. While the participation may be (and is probably) skewed as a result of ReadWriteWeb’s public objection to the blacklisting, the great majority of commenters on the applicable discussion page support the removal of the entry from the blacklist. Since the removal is reversible, continued discussion can confirm whether my removal has general consensus. In the meantime, the removal seems less likely to cause problems.

I’m out like blogs as a source of authority,

Matt Ho.

Projections for ’09: A good year?

After completing the lengthy 2008 post,  I’m going to write briefly about 2009 so far and what I hope to do.

From a professional perspective:

– Work more with websites. I would like to work with Umbraco, Sitecore, Reddot, Fatwire etc.., which are open source content management systems. More like finding out what the client wants, developing a strategy and design, managing the build and overseeing the process.

– Online Display Advertising – I’ve very keen to look at stuff like banner ads, learn about adblaster, open ex ad serving and the like.

– Become involved with social media. I would like to experiment with online marketing campaigns involving social media. I haven’t done any yet, but I am eager to do a viral campaigns using Youtube, social bookmarking, etc….I’m really into social media from a personal perspective because its interesting. However,  it’s hard to see how it can be monetised & the commerical appeal – there’s no real formula.

– I’ve started up a work basketball team @ Alexandria. Unfortunately, I’ve sprained my ankle but hope to be back soon. It’s the first sports team @ Next Digital, Sydney so should be an interesting ride.

– I’m attending a few events in the next month or so:

I would like to attend events,  every now and then to hear industry thoughts, meet people, etc…The event that I really want to attend is Wiki Wednesdays if they ever hold it again. Its for people that are involved in wikipedia’s which leads to……..

– Working on a wiki using Confluence. Its my pride and joy at the moment, and I’m currently the residential expert. I hope to evangelise a wiki culture into our business and show others how to use it. It was my suggestion back in October when I posted about it on my internal work blog, and it slowly coming to fruition.

– continue to find out more about folksonomies, search engines, cloud computing (my favourite topic area at the moment), and RSS.

– I currently have an allocation of work time to study search engines and I will be going for the Google Advertising Professional Exam.

– I hope to find a mentor at work or outside of work.

From a personal perspective

– I would like to do some travelling this year around Australia. I’ve seen so much of the world (Europe, states, Asia, etc.) but I’ve never seen Ayers Rock, WA, Great Barrier Reef, etc… This year I will tick one of them off my list.

– International travel – if not this year then the next. I just had a look at tickets to South America, maybe somewhere like Brazil or Peru would be cool.

– Get my own car & move out!! These two things have long been overdue. They both will be done (or a least one!) by the end of the year.

– I would like to sign up for this local mentoring service. I saw a notice at the library asking for mentors, and I feel like I could help someone. I also believe that I should do some volunteer work if I can find the time (there always is time, I just can’t find it :P)

– Fix up this website and get a proper website. It’s ok having a stock standard blog, but I would like to upgrade the website.

– Sign up for a gym – something I’ve also been meaning to do. I have the form on my desk and was about to complete it, but then my ankle injury hit.

I’m out like moving out,

Matt

Google on Public Policy

I read about 5 – 6 different Google Blogs such as the Official Google Blog, Adwords Agency Blog, Adsense and the Gmail Blog. It’s necessary for me to keep up to date with what’s happening in the world of Google. The great thing about Google is that they have a lot of different departments blogging and keeping the dialogue open with the general community at large. They’ve got 100’s of blogs and I think it’s great. As soon as something new happens, these guys blog about it and it’s really setting the standard for other organisations.

One of the more interesting blogs I have come across is the Google Public Policy Blog. It’s probably not as well read as the other blogs but I would argue that its just as important. An indicator of how popular a blog is the feedburner counter (i.e. how many people subscribe). It’s only at 5,475 compared with 529,000 on the official Google Blog.

Its important to hear about Google’s views on public policy and government. As an organisation, it has really become monolothic and huge like almost overnight – its only really a decade old. Compare this with other other organisations of similar size which probably took decades to build  i.e. 30 – 100 years . It is a very influential organisation which interacts with millions of people on a daily basis through search, email, video, RSS, advertising, maps and so on.

Google is so dominant in the field of search it is without peer. Hence, when they tried to do a business deal with Yahoo to display ads, people were jumping up and down like mad. It has to deal with a lot of issues such as its monopolistic practices, anti-trust,  influence on the U.S government through lobbying on access to more bandwidth access for the community, net neutrality, green energy, etc..

The blog could be no more than a mouthpiece for Google’s lobbying efforts to Washington. But from what I have read, it has a lot of interesting information on its views and thought policies. I probably find this more interesting than most people as well, since I’m a qualified lawyer who now works in digital marketing.

On a related note, the interaction between law and the internet continues to evolve. One of the big issues at the moment are the legal issues around user generated content (UGC). I’m probably in a unique position because I’m one of the few people that subscribe and regularly read the Law Society and other legal publications and also marketing publications such as B&T. I can see that its attracting a lot of attention because the talk is heating up in these magazines and on the web. UGC is stuff that users of social media generate, e.g. facebook and youtube videos, flickr photos, etc… The legal issues are around ownership, copyright, defamation, privacy and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

I’m out like a decade,

Matthew Ho.