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.