DAILY NEWS Feb 13, 2013 9:22 AM - 0 comments

Consumer Tracking Puts Internet Economy at Risk: Industry Report

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Do Not Track techniques and technologies are finding wider acceptance and usage as consumers become more weary or wary of digital data collection, mobile tracking and addressable advertising strategies.

Consumers are making greater use of so-called DNT technologies to protect their personal data, and to prevent or reduce its exposure and collection by Internet marketers and mobile advertisers.

Individual websites, social media networks, mobile devices and even set-top TV boxes are all part of a digital ecosystem used to deliver highly targeted ads and marketing messages, but that approach is now being challenged at its very core.

Digital analysis firm Ovum recently painted what it described as a threatening scenario for the Internet economy, as consumers seek out new DNT tools that make themselves untraceable and impossible to target.

A majority of surveyed Internet and digital media users in eleven different countries want to be “invisible” , and they would use a “do-not-track” (DNT) feature if it was easily available, suggesting that a data black hole could soon open up under the Internet economy.

Together with calls for tighter regulation, consumers who make such choices can reduce the amount and relevance of personal data supply lines, and negatively impact targeted advertising, CRM, big data analytics, and other digital industries.

“Unfortunately, in the gold rush that is big data, taking the supply of ‘little data’ -- personal data -- for granted seems to be an accident waiting to happen,” said Mark Little, principal analyst at Ovum, in describing the report's findings. “However, consumers are being empowered with new tools and services to monitor, control, and secure their personal data as never before, and it seems they increasingly have the motivation to use them.”

Ovum’s analysis echoes a recent report from Advertising Standards Canada, and underscores consumer and privacy advocate concerns expressed here.

It found that some three quarters of Canadians worry about the erosion of personal privacy; it’s the second most worrying issue for Canadians among several global concerns: 72 per cent said they are worried about the erosion of personal privacy, roughly on par with the number concerned about the global financial crisis (73 per cent) and climate change (71 per cent).

"The use of online behavioural advertising has exploded and we're concerned that Canadians' privacy rights aren't always being respected," said Canada’s federal Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart in notes prepared for a speech to a Marketing and the Law conference in Toronto.

The Commissioner has unveiled new guidelines on online behavioural advertising which also set out restrictions on the tracking of children and tracking technologies that people can't turn off.  She has also warned about “data leakage” from some popular sites; she has said that some improvements have been made, but the sites had not been named or otherwise identified.

In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission has endorsed DNT as a simple way for users to inform integrated web services which offer content across the Internet (such as buttons, widgets, and other embedded features) that they do not want certain information about their webpage visits collected across websites when they have not interacted with that service's content on the page.

There are calls for a "DNT mechanism that would prevent an entity from developing profiles about mobile users" that are “easy to find and use”, “effective and enforceable,” and would apply to more than “just advertisements.”

“Internet companies need a new set of messages to change consumers’ attitudes,” Ovum’s Little added. “These messages must be based on positive direct relationships, engagement with consumers, and the provision of genuine and trustworthy privacy controls. Most importantly, data controllers need a better feel for the approaching disruption to their supply lines, and must invest in tools that help them understand the profile of today’s negatively-minded users -- tomorrow’s invisible consumers.”

For more Mediacaster Magazine coverage related to this topic, please see:

Online Advertising Causing Concerns for Privacy Advocates


ASC Report Highlights Privacy Concerns with Media Marketing


Addressable Advertising Tech Standards Approved


CRTC Opens up Video on Demand Services to Addressable Advertising


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