Scary Ad Targeting Firm Tries To Reassure Public, Congress

Poor NebuAd! Internet service providers are fleeing the ad-targeting startup in droves, and privacy advocates have succeeded in making the firm a poster child for the evils of behavioural targeting. The company will no doubt be topic A at a Senate hearing on online privacy issues scheduled for Wednesday.

What to do? Try, at least, to reassure the public. That’s what NebuAd is trying to do today. Among NebuAd’s initiatives: a new option for ISPs to give users periodic notifications that they’re being tracked, and the ability to allow them to easily opt out.

The obsession with NebuAd is odd because what the company does isn’t really that different from all the other behavioural targeting firms across the Web. The key difference: Because it gets your browsing history from your Internet provider, it knows every site you’ve been to — not just the select group of sites that use AOL (TWX), Yahoo (YHOO), etc., for targeting.

But NebuAd’s initiatives seem pretty no-win: Unlikely to mollify the critics and likely to remind users how creepy (on some level) that behavioural targeting really is.

Question: Given the opportunity, who wouldn’t opt out? And if an ISP starts telling subscribers they’re being tracked — no matter how benign or anonymous that might be — how may subscribers will decide to dump the service for one that doesn’t? (Not that Americans have many options for Internet service.)

See Also:
Another Internet Provider Abandons Ad Targeting Plan
behavioural Targeting: Big Noise, Tiny Business
Cable Exec: ‘Shame On Us’ If We Don’t Figure Out Ad Targeting

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