Behavioral Profiling: Collecting Digital Data on Kids

digital-destiny.jpg“Dear FTC, please put my child on the digital do not call list.” (I wish, eh?)

It’s not quite that simple, but you CAN send in your comments before 11-16 here on any of the topics covered at the two-day FTC Town Hall meeting on “Ehavioral Advertising” that just wrapped up. (webcast here and FTC speakers at a glance/agenda here)

As marketers ramp up the one-to-one customization of sophisticated tracking and analysis technologies there are HUGE ethical issues about the vulnerability of youth in digital media…

Jeff Chester, tenacious head of the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) added a NEW 74-page supplement (pdf here) to his original complaint filed LAST year with the FTC (along with U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) to once again reiterate the impact of children’s behavioral profiling and open up a privacy dialogue about our digital destiny…(Here are his opening remarks to the FTC, posted on his blog)

What IS “e-havioral” profiling?

This hilarious ACLU clip that circled the YouTube scene awhile back sums it up in a snap with a “show and tell.” A guy orders pizza, and the operator knows everything from his waist size to his credit card debt, vacation plans to vices, commenting on what sites he visits, how long he stays there, his buying habits, likes and dislikes out the wazoo.

In reality, this is no laughing matter…Ever since I read Jeff Chester’s article in The Nation, titled Google: Search and Data Seizure, I’ve joked that anyone tracking my “cookies” and site visits to create a ‘behavioral profile’ must be ‘hecka’ confused.

From CocoPops to alcopops, I’m humorously unreliable on the data collection meter, pinging all over the internet with reckless abandon, like a teen without a curfew. Somewhere there’s an incredulous market researcher shaking her head at my digital fingerprints, thinking, “whoa, this is one sicko, totally twisted, head case of a mama.”

Kinda surprised the FBI hasn’t knocked on my door by now, since I delve deep into everything from child trafficking, racism, violence, sexploitation, cyberterrorism, and pornification to baby toys, edutainment, music, organics, eco-activism, virtual worlds, techno-trends, and food/fun/fashion…just to name a few!

Hey, serves them right for trying to shadow my every move to begin with, might as well mess with them, eh?

Keep ‘em guessing, I always say.

Seriously, though, as mobile mapping and GPS media gain a behemoth foothold, as evidenced in sites like this cool new web-mobile-social mashup, called Whrrl, I’d say the future of Web 3.0 is upon us…

The FTC is still trying to get a handle on Web 2.0, much less these cool new applications, so they’d better get it together pronto and put some forward thinking synapses into this brain game.

There are vast implications of e-havioral profiling…for kids, particularly, but really for us ALL, as media conglomerates morph into formidable data collection mergers, with the whales swallowing little guys like guppies.

Bill Moyers aptly called Jeff Chester, author of Digital Destiny, and creator of the ‘under 13’ COPPA act, the “Paul Revere of the media revolution.” He posits, “Read his book and you will understand the stakes.”

I have. And I do. So why doesn’t the FTC?

Don’t they see it’s really NOT that hard to ensure digital media is a POSITIVE force in the lives of young people rather than a negative one?

The CDD is trying to put the media choices in the hands of the PEOPLE over the profiteers and monopolies.

That seems like a common sense freedom that kids AND parents can BOTH embrace!

So far, it looks to me like it’s been met with an FTC shrug…

Meanwhile, media-moguls like YouTube/Google and Microsoft are hot on the trail of capturing kids’ behavioral patterns, pitching advertising ‘opportunities’ to micro-target youth with interactive precision, monitoring kids’ “engagement” at ever-deepening levels to track every movement and click.

Slivers of kids’ time allocation can be micro-tracked at virtually every media hub picking up each mouseover and minute spent with finesse, from sites surfed to mobiles dialed…tunes, games, videos, blogs, downloads, freebies and chat rooms…

YOU may not know where your kids are on line, but the corporations and marketing moguls do.

Is that where we want this to go?

Shouldn’t kids have the right to use media without being profiled for profit? Shouldn’t we ALL?

Do we really think mining data from people’s personal lives will NOT leave a hazardous trail without some plain ol’ basic rules for privacy protection?

You may not even have noticed how ubiquitous “e-havioral” profiling is in your own life, because it’s rather seamless.

I got my own firsthand glimpse when caring for my folks after post-op surgeries, purchasing items that I normally, um…wouldn’t buy. (gee, thanks for those prune juice coupons guys…might even use the Ensure with my zoom-out-the-door mode sometime, but fergoshsakes, put a hold on those AARP mailings and big pharm pitches, egad, enough, already!)

Clearly, my online and offline habits were ‘tracked and profiled’ into a bogus digital dossier that had little to do with my daily reality.

Anal-retentive researcher that I am, I also visited every freakin’ medical site known to man, every patient blog, recovery forum, and podcast to glean vital info. I purchased books on various states of disease and recovery from Amazon, and horrifically watched my profile alter right before my eyes.

It took me months to sort out my “if you like this you’d like that” recommendations that were once so useful!

Instead, my handy Amazon filter became a random moshpit of sift-n-sort filtering, which defeats the purpose entirely.

(Eventually, I bluffed the profiling system by setting up secondary accounts using different e-mails/names/purchase habits to funnel by topicality, but that’s another story…catch me if you can, profiteers, I have more nom de plumes than Mata Hari)

Now, let’s consider if someone used that bogus behavioral profile as my ‘record’:

What if an insurance company decides I have a ‘pre-existing’ condition, or am no longer worthy of coverage? (yes, it’s illegal, but c’mon folks, this happens all the time) What if a potential employer decides I have too much family baggage and won’t be able to focus? What if an unscrupulous mortgage company tries to leverage a surgical crisis and sell me a reverse sub-prime mortgage to take out funds when I desperately need them? You see the point…

Now extend that behavioral tracking to college kids, teens, youth, and wee children…

Vulnerability with a capital “V.”

There’s the racial profiling and ethnic identification tidbits to target kids for everything from student loans and credit cards to cell-phone plans and sneakers…Not to mention the psycho-social privacy issue…

It’s no secret many kids depend on the anonymity of chat rooms, virtual worlds, MMORPGs and social networking sites as prime playgrounds for identity exploration, autonomy, personal expression, and working through traumas and troubles…

Some virtual communities and cancer support forums etc., are literally shared lifelines for teens going through difficult times, do we really want this online privacy usurped for data collection?

Shouldn’t media’s exploration and education trump mining data for mindshare?

The CDD and US PIRG continue to make the point to the FTC that THIS IS NOT OKAY, particularly when it comes to children’s privacy concerns and increasingly intrusive advertising 24/7 aimed directly at them.

Yet an entire year has passed since the CDD revealed an entire demo-site displaying how kids are being plied by digital ads under parental radar, submitting truckloads of data, and made them aware with scholarly tomes out the wazoo.

What’s it gonna take to get through to the FTC on this, gang?

Being a creative director, I can’t help but have a Pixar cartoon-visual goin’ on here…

The CDD’s Jeff Chester is cast in the role of a pesky fly circling FTC offices, dropping data on their desk…the ‘powers that be’ dismissively shoo him away, flailing wildly only to have him circle back a year later buzzing louder in their ears with even MORE egregious evidence!

Did the FTC even take a swat at digesting the full scope of this information?

American University Professor Dr. Kathryn C. Montgomery, author of Generation Digital makes a plea for public policy and common sense analysis, summing up the teen scene quite nicely on this Marketplace podcast,
“Most teens don’t realize the extent to which they’ve become part of elaborate, virtual focus groups…”

Whew. I’ll say. As for ads on Facebook and targeting kids via other social media, Dr. Montgomery said,

“Social networks are becoming critical tools for adolescent development – encouraging kids to explore their identities, find their voices, reach out to peers and even engage in politics…Advertisers are practically salivating over the abundant psychographic and behavioral information that social networking sites can offer.”

“In addition to basic demographics, marketers can glean a wealth of “enormously rich” data. Including personal relationships, ethnicity, religion, political leanings, sexual orientation, or whether a person drinks or smokes. Dozens of new data miners and ad-serving companies have swooped in to “nano-target” and “hypo-target” individual users with personalized ads.”

Yep, this is no time for watchdogs to be snoozing.

We should all be thankful for the tenacity of the CDD/US PIRG to keep jostling the FTC awake and snap their eyes open. The FTC needs to look at all the possibilities and pitfalls…especially where kids are concerned.

From the integration of Wii simulations into virtual worlds, to mobile-social-GPS communities and other “advertising opportunities,” there needs to be some forethought on the digital dossier front…

It’s a brave new world out there. Let’s not monopolize it into a narrowcast mainstream media model all over again.

Action Steps:


“Any person also may submit written comments on the topics to be addressed at the Town Hall. Comments may be submitted via e-mail to or by mail to Secretary, Federal Trade Commission, Room H-135 (Annex N), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Comments must be received by COB Friday, November 16, 2007.”

Related Resources:

Online Profiling: A Report to Congress (Part 1) (June 2000) [PDF]

Online Profiling: A Report to Congress (Part 2): Recommendations (July 2000) [PDF]

Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy by Jeff Chester

Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet
by Kathryn C. Montgomery

Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole
by Benjamin R. Barber



  1. p.s. I should add that in visiting the FTC website, they have their own probs on the digital front…here’s a warning, in case you DO file a comment and get a pingback that asks you to open a “Fraud Dept.” attachment…don’t.

    See this FTC press warning:

    Don’t Open Bogus Email that Claims to Come From the FTC
    Email That States It’s From the FTC’s “Fraud Department” Has Virus Attached

    A bogus email is circulating that says it is from the Federal Trade Commission, referencing a “complaint” filed with the FTC against the email’s recipient. The email includes links and an attachment that download a virus. As with any suspicious email, the FTC warns recipients not to click on links within the email and not to open any attachments.

    The spoof email includes a phony sender’s address, making it appear the email is from “” and also spoofs the return-path and reply-to fields to hide the email’s true origin. While the email includes the FTC seal, it has grammatical errors, misspellings, and incorrect syntax. Recipients should forward the email to and then delete it. Emails sent to that address are kept in the FTC’s spam database to assist with investigations.

    Simply opening the email does not appear to cause harm.

    However, it is likely that anyone who has opened the email’s ATTACHMENT or clicked on the LINKS has downloaded the virus on their computer, and should run an anti-virus program. The virus appears to install a “key logger” that could potentially grab passwords and account numbers.

    More information about bogus emails, phishing, and virus protection is available at

    The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click

    Office of Public Affairs

  2. Two Knives (see link above) just paid this forward with a call to action for parents to sound off…

    I should probably have sounded that alert much louder, for I DO feel policy is made by squeaky wheels…

    Here’s what I wrote back on her blog:

    “I really DO feel there’s a big difference between a consumer’s decision to ‘opt-in’ (CHOOSING to receive a mobile coupon for an item in the checkout line via cellphone, enjoying the convenience of ‘recommendations’ for movies/books, etc. mobile-mapping all the public restrooms/nearby retail sales as you’re wandering downtown in a city, as I wrote about in the piece, etc.) versus dangling carrots to pitch ‘wants and gimmes’ to youth.

    Plus that whole media monopoly-personal privacy/control issue that’s just downright creepy.”

  3. AND…THIS “OPEN SOCIAL” concept shows how fast networks are adapting on the fly…Again, very cool, fun, use of social media apps!!!!!(let’s not blow it w/opportunistic vultures)

    From FastCompany/Source: “Google Launches OpenSocial, ” John Battelle’s Searchblog

    “And everyone thought that Microsoft had punked Google by investing $240 million in Facebook for 1.6 of the social-networking site, when all the while Google had a plan for Orkut, that being OpenSocial — a set of common APIs for building social applications across the Web, (with a developer sandbox at Orkut).

    “Orkut has tens of millions of passionate users who are constantly clamoring for new ways to have fun with their friends and express themselves through Orkut,” said Amar Gandhi, group product manager for Orkut, Google’s social networking service. “By using OpenSocial to open up Orkut as a platform for any developer, we can tap into the vast creativity of the community and make new features available to our users frequently.”

    Here’s what’s being said around the Web about OpenSocial:

    * OpenSocial – What a Difference a Day Makes
    Today Google made its official announcement (NYTimes coverage) of the networks that have joined their OpenSocial initiative. By adding sites not yet named in Tuesday’s NYTimes piece, namely the addition of MySpace, we have a completely different picture of the combined OpenSocial sites compared to Facebook. By popular requests here’s an updated chart:

    * Details Revealed: Google OpenSocial To Launch Thursday The new project, called OpenSocial (URL will go live on Thursday), goes well beyond what we’ve previously reported. It is a set of common APIs that application developers can use to create applications that work on any social networks (called “hosts”) that choose to participate.

    *MySpace Joins Google’s OpenSocial
    MySpace and Google announced that the largest social network in the world will be joining the developing initiative by the largest search engine in the world. Google has said that over the past year, they’ve been secretly working on with MySpace to include them in the OpenSocial.

    NewsGator Joins OpenSocial

    NewsGator was quick to take advantage of the new developer’s platform OpenSocial to create an application for Google’s new partners in the social networking space.

    Named “Didja Hear!?” this app will let you share and discuss multimedia images and video content. The premise of Didja Hear will basically organize and distribute video and image content between you and your friends.

  4. And of course…everyone’s waited with bated breath to see what Facebook/Microsoft reveal as their new “ad platform” on November 6th…

    Stay tuned…

  5. WHOA! This just in from the “Junk Food Science” blog revealing that the US Dept of Health & Human Svcs. wants to sell our medical info???? I was using that ‘what if’ as a ‘worst case scenario…but read this pronto!’

    Here’s the opening paragraph:
    “The Citizens’ Council on Health Care has issued an Action Alert that may be of interest to readers. The National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics has just submitted a Report to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with a proposed policy framework for how the government can collect, use and sell our electronic medical records. Specifically, it is purposing the sale and secondary use of our health data without our informed consent. According to this report, it’s all part of the government’s “vision of a nationwide health information network (NHIN).”

  6. ACT NOW!!!!!!!!!! UNTIL NOVEMBER 6TH???? EGAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    ” The report itself is very difficult to read and to realize what they are actually proposing while protecting our privacy. CCHC president Twila Brase summarizes the key concerns being proposed, saying that they will:

    · Allow Sale of Your Medical Data – Authorize sale of your ‘de-identified’ but not ‘unidentifiable’ medical data to “support the business model of NHIN” – the proposed online national health data system. This could include your genetic information–or DNA, which is always identifiable. (p 23)

    · Limit Your Consent Rights – Define when you can consent to your data being accessed for a broad array of “secondary” uses and when you cannot, including uses such as government tracking and government access to your entire medical record. (p 22)

    · Abolish and Prohibit Real Privacy Laws – Abolish the power of State legislatures to enact privacy laws that actually protect patient privacy (federal law now allows State law to trump the federal HIPAA “no privacy” rule) (p 30-31)

    · Expand Access to Your Data – Force all organizations and websites with health data to abide with HIPAA, the federal “no-privacy” rule, thus giving them federal authority to share your data extensively without your consent. (FYI, the term ‘patient consent’ does not exist in HIPAA) (p 30)

    · Enable Tracking of You and Your Doctors – Specifically authorize your data to be used in a way that could harm you: in so-called “quality improvement” activities (eg. electronically tracking your doctor’s treatment decisions and financially penalizing him or her less if your treatment doesn’t follow one-size fits-all treatment directives.) (p 26)

    · Enable Data-Mining, Patient Profiling and Data Linking – Expanding the definition of research to include “quality improvement”could re-define data-mining, profiling patients and doctors, and linking of your data across multiple databases as “research.” The Feds allow [public health] research without your consent or knowledge. Only consent from a Institutional Review Board is required. (p 28)

    The public has until this Tuesday, November 6, to submit their comments to Debbie M. Jackson, Senior Program Analyst at the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC. Here is her contact information:

    3311 Toledo Road, Room 2339

    Hyattsville, MD 20782

    (301) 458-4614

    The CCHC suggests comments along these lines:

    I want a health care system I can trust. My medical record is mine. Anyone who wants access to my private data for any purpose must be required to get my informed, written consent. There should be no “secondary uses” without my consent.

  7. Here’s another good link from the industry standpoint, asking what I asked earlier in terms of the value of couponing/ad distribution, getting what you want vs. randomness, etc.—

    Again, I think we need to look at the children in a different light here in terms of what’s being ‘pitched’ on the off-limits meter…esp. when Google has the power to place ads at a keystroke, as evidenced in this statement:

    “Google’s Gmail serves up ads based on what you write in an email. For example, you write that you’re feeling down and you start seeing ads on how to combat depression…

    MySpace enables advertisers to place ads based on what you write about yourself on your profile.”

  8. More feedback…this time from the New York Times article about behavioral targeting in this piece, titled:
    “Tracking of Web Use by Marketers Gains Favor”

    The NYTimes piece says, “Privacy advocates said they were surprised how quickly online companies came back to the market promoting their targeting programs.

    “Despite all of the assurances that the industry gave to regulators and the public, it sounds as if their business plans sort of fly in the face of the promises to operate without exploiting young people,” said Kathryn Montgomery, a professor at American University and author of the book “Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet.”

    “If you are hanging out with your friends and talking about who you are, what rock stars you like, and so on, you don’t assume that someone is sitting there and taking down every word you’re saying and putting it into some kind algorithm,” she said.

    “People should have dominion over their computers,” said Jon Leibowitz, an F.T.C. commissioner. “The current ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in online tracking and profiling has to end.”

    Ah…sums up our feelings here at Shaping Youth quite nicely…

  9. Here’s another one…from The Wired Campus

    November 5, 2007
    The Advertiser Over Your Shoulder

    …”The social networks are going public with their microtargeting strategies just a week after the Federal Trade Commission held a hearing to consider whether it should regulate online advertising more aggressively. Privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology had asked the commission to create a “Do Not Track” registry that would prohibit companies from logging people’s Web usage for advertising purposes. (Facebook officials showed up at the hearing to discuss their privacy policies.)

    Would many college students sign up for such a list? Google’s e-mail service, Gmail, runs advertisements based on the content of users’ e-mail messages, but that practice hasn’t stunted the service’s growth.”

    What do you think? Should we all be given a ‘do not track’ option? Would it be enforceable? Do students even care about privacy, since this is the transparent world of the social web?

    Would marketers find a loophole? Would there be ‘opt-in’ incentives for kids/adults beckoning like the witch in Hansel & Gretel?

    “Come in my little pretties, let us track your every move and crawl into your mental mind map to sell you what you’re looking for…even though you don’t know you’re looking for it yet…”


    At least giving people an option would beat the current system of arrogance in the race against time to “just do it” without even asking. (or telling!)

    Such precocious entitlement for marketers to infiltrate and snatch data without even saying a word…

    In our ‘kiss and tell’ culture of sensationalism, this is ‘all tell’ and not even a smidge of smooch of courting…

    It’s akin to the “dump a date” one night stand where marketers use and teenagers lose (all their data, that is)—Slam, bam, thank you m’aam…how terribly rude and unsporting…

    But here’s the clincher…most kids hand over tons of information freely to get what THEY want out of ‘authentic’ branding & promotions…seems to me the least they could do is ‘ask.’

    Give the power back to the people…


    “Facebook Unveils Facebook Ads
    60 Leading Consumer and Internet Brands Announce Participation in New Ad System

    NEW YORK – Facebook Social Advertising Event, Nov. 6, 2007 – Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg today introduced Facebook Ads, an ad system for businesses to connect with users and target advertising to the exact audiences they want. Through Facebook Ads, these users can now learn about new businesses, brands and products through the trusted referrals of their friends.

    “Facebook Ads represent a completely new way of advertising online,” Zuckerberg told an audience of more than 250 marketing and advertising executives in New York. “For the last hundred years media has been pushed out to people, but now marketers are going to be a part of the conversation. And they’re going to do this by using the social graph in the same way our users do.”

    The keynote opened the Facebook Social Advertising event, which also featured senior executives from landmark partners including Blockbuster, CBS, Chase, The Coca-Cola Company, Microsoft, Sony Pictures Television and Verizon Wireless. More than 60 major consumer and Internet brand partners were highlighted at the launch of Facebook Ads.

    Today, Facebook Ads launched with three parts: a way for businesses to build pages on Facebook to connect with their audiences; an ad system that facilitates the spread of brand messages virally through Facebook Social Ads; and an interface to gather insights into people’s activity on Facebook that marketers care about.

    More than 100,000 Facebook Pages Launch Today
    Zuckerberg detailed how Facebook Pages allows users to interact and affiliate with businesses and organizations in the same way they interact with other Facebook user profiles. More than 100,000 new Facebook Pages launched today covering the world’s largest brands, local businesses, organizations and bands.

    “The core of every user’s experience on Facebook is their page and that’s where businesses are going to start as well,” explained Zuckerberg. “The first thing businesses can do is design a page to craft the exact experience they want people to see.”

    Just like a Facebook user, businesses can start with a blank canvas and add all the information and content they want, including photos, videos, music and Facebook Platform applications. Outside developers have created a range of applications to enhance Facebook Pages, such as booking reservations or providing reviews of restaurant pages, buying tickets on a movie page or creating a custom t-shirt. Companies launching applications for Pages include Fandango, iLike, Musictoday LLC, OpenTable, SeamlessWeb, Zagat Survey LLC and Zazzle.

    Distribution through the Social Graph
    Advertising messages will gain distribution through what Facebook has termed the “social graph,” the network of real connections through which people communicate and share information. When people engage with a business’ Facebook Page, that action will spread information about that business through the social graph.

    Users can become a fan of a business and can share information about that business with their friends and act as a trusted referral. Facebook users can interact directly with the business through its Facebook Page by adding reviews, writing on that business’ Wall, uploading photos and in any other ways that a business may want to enable. These actions could appear in users’ Mini-Feed and News Feed, Facebook’s popular products that allow users to share information more efficiently with their friends.

    Unique Ads with Social Actions
    “Social actions are powerful because they act as trusted referrals and reinforce the fact that people influence people,” said Zuckerberg. “It’s no longer just about messages that are broadcasted out by companies, but increasingly about information that is shared between friends. So we set out to use these social actions to build a new kind of ad system.”

    Facebook’s ad system serves Social Ads that combine social actions from your friends – such as a purchase of a product or review of a restaurant – with an advertiser’s message. This enables advertisers to deliver more tailored and relevant ads to Facebook users that now include information from their friends so they can make more informed decisions. No personally identifiable information is shared with an advertiser in creating a Social Ad.

    Social Ads can appear either within a user’s News Feed as sponsored content or in the ad space along the left side of the site.

    Insights about Brand Presence and Promotion
    Facebook gives marketers valuable metrics about their presence and promotion on Facebook. Facebook Insights gives access to data on activity, fan demographics, ad performance and trends that better equip marketers to improve custom content on Facebook and adjust ad targeting. Facebook Insights is a free service for all Facebook Pages and Social Ads.

    Protecting User’s Privacy
    Facebook has always empowered users to make choices about sharing their data, and with Facebook Ads we are extending that to marketing messages that appear on the site. Facebook users will only see Social Ads to the extent their friends are sharing information with them.”


  11. Here’s the most recent comment/recap on the CDD blog re the FTC two-day session:

    “One of the most shocking aspects of the FTC’s two-day “town hall” on online marketing was the failure of the industry to be candid. They didn’t want to provide the FTC—and more importantly, the public—with information about how the business models they’ve developed are designed to tap into our personal data and use them at will without our real consent (and meaningful legal protection for consumers). There is real absence of social responsibility coming from the major companies and trade groups. What we heard from the IAB and DMA repeatedly during the event, in response to calls to protect consumers’ privacy rights, was that the “free Internet” would die without advertising. Such scare tactics reflect a narrow and self-serving mentality about the role of the Internet. `It’s our toy, brought to you by the following sponsors,’ is what they claim. But, our political and social culture as a democracy transcends such a simplistic analysis. A variety of public, nonprofit and commercial roles are needed to help ensure that the Internet and other digital media create a vibrant democratic culture of participation, equity, public health and—yes—economic growth. Such an intellectual failure and self-serving perspective underscores why this is an important public interest issue.

    The U.S. requires the development of a legal framework which protects our privacy in an era where all our actions are fodder for corporate and governmental collection and use. We need to ensure that online marketing treats consumers fairly. There are special groups—and concerns—where business as they want it should not happen. The new CDD/PIRG amended complaint filed Thursday is just one of a number of things we will do to advance the public interest in the digital marketing and data collection era.

    Let me also point to a very important article by the noted Peter Matthiessen in the current issue of The New York Review of Books. “Alaska: Big Oil and the Whales” is a chilling essay on what the demand for oil is doing to the native people, wildlife, and the land. So much destruction as we wantonly plunder for more oil and gas (including the use “of powerful [seismic] airguns” that “shoot sound waves through the sea floor (causing disruption to the “animal habitats and whale migrations”). Matthiessen also writes that: “Like most coastal Inupiat communities, Point Hope… is faced with the melting of the permafrost under the tundra and the erosion of the coasts; because of Arctic warming, the sea ice is forming too late in the year to suppress the waves that batter the shores in the fierce autumn storms. Shishmaref and Kivalina villages in the Point Hope region have been fatally undercut by storm erosion and must soon be abandoned; their inhabitants are likely to become the first “climate refugees” from global warming in the United States, and others may soon follow… The Eskimo people surely sense that the ground of their ancient culture is eroding on every side and even from beneath them.”

    I am not against advertising. But we need to make all the marketing processes underlying interactive advertising visible, transparent, and accountable. I asked one panel during the FTC Town Hall focused on “disclosure” why they couldn’t tell consumers what they told their clients: how their interactive marketing techniques are designed to change user behavior (including encouraging people to spend more money). Not one person answered.

    It’s time to go beyond our narrow self-interests, and work together to help make (or try to save) a world worthy for our children and our successors.” –Jeff Chester

  12. New updated link on the Facebook Social Ads…excellent blog commentary here from the privacy perspective…spam scenario:

  13. another great one on Read/Write/Web about privacy and centralized hubs, moving from ‘attention to intention’ etc.

  14. And THIS idea, about a Private Identity Network is fascinating, he shoots holes in his own theories and reveals the solutions as well as the problems. (Sounds like the way my mind works)

    Here’s his sound bite, asking the question what’s the next force on the internet? (post-Google, as privacy becomes a supreme desire)

    “That prospective industry is comprised of Private Identity Providers (PIPs) and a single Network Guardian (NG). Together they comprise the Private Identity Network (PIN)- a gated community of individuals who choose to get the most out of the Internet while enjoying optimal privacy and security. The PIN is a virtual shell encapsulating the existing Internet…”
    Here’s his link:

    I dunno…it’s fascinating to read everyone’s thoughts about the hows and whys and where we’re goings, especially concepts like VRM (vendor relationship mgmt, where CUSTOMERS control their relationship w/vendors rather than vice-versa)—but sometimes it makes me feel like John Q public (moms like me) are peeking inside a world where these erudite techies are making decisions on our behalf, and we’re just voyeuristic fops along for the ride, voicing our red flags now & then, and hoping for the best.

    Does anyone else feel that way (and again, post HERE rather than e-mail me?) Sheesh I have 8000+ e-mails and Thunderbird is gonna crash on me…USE THE BLOG, pretty please!? 🙂

  15. Reporter Brock Read Writes in Wired Campus News today:

    November 15, 2007
    Facebook’s ‘Social Ads’ Raise Privacy Concerns

    “It’s too early to tell whether college students will be turned off by – or, indeed, whether they’ll even notice – Facebook’s new targeted-advertising scheme. But privacy advocates and some other observers are already raising red flags, and as David Weinberger argues at The Huffington Post, they may have reason to be concerned.

    The key piece of Facebook’s plan is the social network’s new means of communicating with other businesses’ Web sites: When a user rents a movie online from Blockbuster, for example, the video store’s site will relay that information back to Facebook, which will ask the customer whether he or she wants to share news of the rental with friends. That process gives Facebook a lot of information that will pique the interest of advertisers, and the social network has a plan for that data, of course. Facebook will let companies like Blockbuster buy ads that target certain demographics – say, college-age males who rent horror movies – but the site will not identify individual users to those companies.

    So far, so good, says Mr. Weinberger: “That is the informational view of privacy, and Facebook is likely to continue to get that right.” But there are aspects of Facebook’s scheme that leave him uneasy. For example, the social network allows users to see which outside sites have passed their information back to Facebook, and it then lets people choose, one by one, to prohibit those sites from doing it again. But Facebook never offers users a “big red button” that will let them opt out of the data-sharing system altogether. “We should be allowed to Just Say No, once and for all,” argues Mr. Weinberger, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

    “Why? Because privacy is not just about information,” he writes. “It’s all about the defaults.” A couple traipsing down a public sidewalk makes the default assumption that no one will be recording their conversation and posting it online. Why, he asks, should a Facebook user surfing the Web have to feel any different?…”
    –Brock Read

  16. From MediaPost’s Just an Online Minute:

    “As predicted, Facebook’s two-week-old “Beacon” program, which publicizes users’ purchases at e-commerce sites to their friends, is already drawing privacy complaints.

    Tuesday, launched a protest by creating a new Facebook group, “Petition: Facebook, stop invading my privacy!” By Wednesday morning, the group had drawn almost 5,000 Facebook members. Move On also is asking members to sign an online petition demanding that the site not pass along information about members’ purchases without their “explicit permission.”

    Currently, Facebook allows users to opt out of participating in its Beacon program. But Move On — and other advocates — have good reason for arguing that opt-outs don’t protect people’s privacy nearly as well as requiring them to opt in would.

    Facebook’s official position is that the information is only sent to the users’ “friends” and that users can always elect not to share it.

    But the reality is, many people don’t read the fine print when they shop online — especially when they’re at sites they’ve used for years, like movie ticketer Fandango. Users, even sophisticated ones who have long made online purchases, don’t understand the consequences of inertia: they don’t realize that taking no action means that their Facebook friends will be notified of their purchases.

    But the Facebook executives who thought up this program clearly understood about inertia. They certainly realized that they’d get higher participation — and presumably higher ad revenue — by making the program opt-out rather than opt-in. But in the long term, alienating enough users will leave the company without either members or ad revenue.”

  17. Found a Facebook group to block Facebook privacy/peeping:

    And here’s a universal link to a Download Squad story about Firefox users who want to block the entire Facebook ‘beacon’ to deter info sharing.

    I’m going to post it here for Shaping Youth readers below, but since we tend to be a bit creeped out by usurping privacy…it merits a story/follow-up, since has taken up the charge, etc.

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge