Last Updated Jun 27, 2011 4:59 PM EDT
It cannot possibly do both: In order for an ad to be personal -- indeed, in order for WPP to know that it already owns the profiles of 500 million individuals worldwide -- it must be able to distinguish between them and know that when it serves an ad to Joe Sixpack it isn't Jane Chardonnay who sees it.
It sounds as if WPP is trying to have its cake and eat it -- to give advertisers the individual targeting ability they crave while also reassuring consumers that their privacy isn't being invaded. Of course, if the world's largest ad agency has a database that identifies you by name, ethnicity, location and financial history, and is targeting you with personally tailored ads, what privacy do you have left?
We will clearly play in terms of the strictest rules of self-regulation.Self-regulation has not been a particularly successful guarantor of consumer privacy. Sony's PlayStation network was hacked this year. Twice. Citigroup had to send 200,000 customers new credit cards after a security breach. Here's a list of companies that the FTC has cited for violating consumer privacy.
The purpose of Xaxis is, in fact, spying, the WSJ says:
Xaxis will build up its database by tracking consumers via ads and marketers' websites. It also will tap existing customer databases as well as buying data from more than two dozen outside firms, such as BlueKai and DataLogix. Xaxis says it will store advertisers' data separately to avoid conflicts.Nor is it new. The Xaxis press release shows that WPP has been collecting this data and acting on it for years.