Google, Omnicom, Others Prepare to End Consumer Privacy - With Your Consent

Last Updated Jul 10, 2009 3:27 PM EDT

As Congress and the FTC continue their review of online behavioral targeting, Google, Omnicom, Phorm and other web advertising providers are moving forward with plans to end privacy online -- as long as they have your consent.

Silicon Alley Insider recently got hold of Google's behavioral targeting policy document (see below). It states that Google wants to see a system in which ads contain a label that consumers can click on for more info about what private information the advertiser may have gathered. That link would take users to a page where users can manage their priovacy settings, much like a Google Alert page, only for ads instead of news.

But the label Google proposes for ads says only "Feedback - Ads by Google," rather than something more accurate, such as "Change Your Ad Privacy Settings Here."

Within the privacy manager, users are essentially asked to opt-in to based on their interests to receive relevant advertising. This is all well and good on the day the consumer has been reading the New York Times. But a couple of days later that same reader will likely be surfing Fleshbot, and will forget that Google's advertisers are scooping up info on their sexual preferences.

Sexual preference privacy is not, interestingly, a main priority for the advertising industry lobby groups that recently published their own proposals on online privacy. That document, signed by the ANA, AAAA, the DMA et al, states:
The Principle calls for entities not to collect financial account numbers, Social Security numbers, pharmaceutical prescriptions, or medical records about specific individuals for Online Behavioral Advertising purposes without Consent.
The last two words are crucial: They mean, "we do want to collect that information, as long as we obtained your click-wrapped consent at some earlier point." The FTC recently nailed Sears for failing to do that.

Meanwhile, Omnicom Media Group is rolling out an "advanced targeting" system, according to MediaPost. The agency is "tight-lipped on specifics," MP said.

And while British Telecom and TalkTalk appear to have abandoned Phorm, the online user tracker, Virgin says it has not ruled out using the service.

Google Internal Document - July 09

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