Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Is Behavioral Targeting Wrong?

I recently read and interesting article about the practice known as behavioral targeting. Essentially, it is the tracking of certain internet habits of particular groups of people in order to better segment online audiences. The obvious benefits would be that marketers can spend money much more efficiently by being assured that their markets are being reached by internet services. The internet services can, in turn, keep their services free to the average online user, since ad revenue would be premium with this sort of targeting.

The problem, some say, is that it is information that can be used nefariously and can breach the privacy of internet users. The FTC is considering voluntary guidelines to help curtail possible abuse. Because so many people use the internet more than watch TV, the wealth of information—such as searches a person may do, an online article a person reads, or links they click—is all too easily harvested to construct consumer profiles.

I'm on the fence on this. In one sense, I prefer to have internet services be free, and I am aware of the implications of that—that I give information about myself in return. But on the other hand, once the information is in the hands of someone without scruples, that information can be a powerful force for coercion.

What do you think? Does the good outweigh the bad? What should be done in response?

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