Saturday, September 27, 2008

Verzion, AT&T agree not to track users; NAI has more flexible position


Internet users should be aware of the political and “moral” positions taken by the Network Advertising Initiative, or NAI, A particular sentence on its home page summarizes its postion: “What makes Internet advertising effective is the use of technologies that allow advertising networks to make inferences about consumer tastes and provide relevant content.”

NAI also has a byline “helping you protect your privacy online” and a link that explains its positions on consumer rights and on the correct use of cookies and web beacons. It also has a red link for “Consumer opt-out” of targeted advertising
delivered by NAI member ad networks. However NAI’s best practices do not include a requirement for “opt-in” style consumer consent.

The concept is important because of a story in the Friday Sept. 26 Washington Post, “AT&T, Verizon To Refrain From Tracking Users Online: Firms pledge to get consent before targeting ads to consumers,” by Peter Whoriskey, Business page D2, link here. Other companies are taking a “wait and see” approach, and maintain they need to see a consistent and quasi-mandatory industry practice on consumer notification or consent

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Government can't track locations of cell communications without warrants


A federal judge has limited the right of the government to require cell phone and telecommunications companies to reveal the location of use of a cell phone (and probably of an Internet connection on a cell phone or wireless laptop). The government must get a warrant from a judge showing probable cause.

The government maintains that this hinders criminal investigations in comparison to pre-Internet situations in the real world.

Cell phone users generally like the idea or naïve belief that others do not know where they are when they respond to cell phone calls, although that is not always true.

The ruling came from Terrence V. McVerry in western Pennsylvania and also involved the locations of cell telephone towers.

The Washington Post story appeared Feb 12, is authored by Ellen Nakashima, on p A2, and the link is here.

Conceivably, the government could want to sample the location of wireless communications in monitoring net neutrality was well.

Curious, the new Dreamworks film "Eagle Eye" builds on the assumption that the government tracks people geographically by cell phone all the time.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

ISP's becoming reluctant to deliver ads based on subscriber surfing


CNN reports that ISP’s are slowing down or deferring their business plans for “ISP-based” advertising that would be based on sniffing the surfing patterns of users.

The whole situation is a mixed bag for consumers. On the one hand, ad revenue to ISP’s could mean lower broadband or wireless rates for consumers, and possibly less temptation to interfere with content along the lines of violating “net neutrality” concepts.

On the other hand, consumers fear the possibility of personal information, or the remote possibility that they could be misidentified by law enforcement, particularly if hackers somehow got involved.

A company called NebuAd was to facilitate the tracking. NebuAd would be able to profile a consumer based on surfing patterns, and provide subject-matter-specific ads on almost any topic (golf, cooking, gardening, movies, etc.) A similar company in Britain is called Phorm. Both companies claim that they have sophisticated security mechanisms to to the sampling safely.

The CNN story, dated September 1, is here.