NY Legislator Looks To Outlaw Behavioral Targeted Ads Without Opt-In

from the a-bit-late-for-that dept

A New York Assembly member is pushing to outlaw targeted advertising without opt-in approval. Given the scrutiny facing companies like Phorm in the UK, this isn’t all that surprising. However, the complaints around Phorm are that it tracks all of your surfing activity and generates ads based on that aggregate info. The bill that is being discussed in New York would apparently apply to websites that do targeted advertising within the site. That seems both extreme and unnecessary. Even though the law would technically only apply to New York, since it would be difficult to figure out who’s in NY and who’s elsewhere, it would force many providers to get rid of targeted advertising. It seems a bit extreme to think that targeted advertising should be banned entirely, without an initial opt-in. By this point, most people probably expect basic targeting to take place, and when done right, such targeted ads should be more effective. The real problem comes in when such targeting presents a privacy violation, but the focus then should be on privacy laws, not specifically targeting a single activity such as targeted ads.

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Companies: google, microsoft, phorm

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Comments on “NY Legislator Looks To Outlaw Behavioral Targeted Ads Without Opt-In”

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15 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I disagree

Being creepy, annoying, sloppy, and ineffective are poor reasons for seeking a governmentally-enforced ban. Instead, they are more reasons why such things will die a natural death. As noted, the real concern is the privacy issues involved, so we’d be better served focussing on the root of the problem rather than these offshoots.

moe says:

Re: I disagree -- You have a choice

No one forces you to use the sites that have targeted ads. If you don’t like it that much, don’t use those sites.

I agree that the way Phorm went about it isn’t right. On the one hand, it’s realistic that sites would track your use of their site for a variety of reasons in addition to ad-serving. For example, to see what is working and what isn’t working in regards to their site design & content. On the other hand, it’s not acceptable for a site or sites to assume they have the right to examine all of your surfing activity.

But, I’m having a hard time understanding how computer algorithims serving up ads based on your habits & preferences within the website can be creepy? Annoying and sloppy, sure. But not creepy.

And the ads are certainly not ineffective. This type of advertising is very prolific, and is logically more effective than just slapping ads up in the hopes they match the viewers needs. Otherwise, this type of advertising would go by the wayside.

Rich Kulawiec says:

Re: Re: I disagree -- You have a choice

In some cases you have a choice. One of the massive problems with schemes like Phorm is that they forcibly insert themselves in network traffic — so unless you’re prepared to change ISPs (frequently not an option) you’re stuck with them.

There’s also increasingly-disturbing news coming out about Phorm’s ties to the completely notorious Russian Business Network; see for instance:
http://yro.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=489948&cid=22777122

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Enforcement

> Even though the law would technically only
> apply to New York, since it would be difficult
> to figure out who’s in NY and who’s elsewhere,
> it would force many providers to get rid of
> targeted advertising.

I don’t agree. If I’m in California running a site with targeted ads, I don’t become subject to New York law and New York jurisdiction merely because someone in New York can view my website. Only if the business/web site itself is physically located in New York would New York law apply.

To do otherwise would create a situation where every web site worldwide would be bound by whatever country’s laws are the most restrictive.

And it would also lead to situations where two different jurisdictions have laws that impose mutually exclusive and contradictory requirements on site owners. E.g., if one state passes a law requiring site owners to do something and another state passes a law outlawing that very thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Enforcement

Enforcement by BTR1701 on Mar 20th, 2008 @ 5:47am
>> Even though the law would technically only
>> apply to New York, since it would be difficult
>> to figure out who’s in NY and who’s elsewhere,
>> it would force many providers to get rid of
>> targeted advertising.

>I don’t agree

Your opinion does not matter.

Unfortunately for you if you are in CA then you are in the US and you can be extradited to NY.

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Enforcement

> Your opinion does not matter.

It matters as much as yours. And in my case, I have the added advantage of being legally correct.

> Unfortunately for you if you are in CA then you are in the US and
> you can be extradited to NY

Not unless I commit an offense in New York. Doing something that’s perfectly legal in California while in California cannot give rise to criminal liability in another state. It’s a pretty basic legal concept. That doesn’t change just because this case involves those fancy new-fangled intertubes.

Carter says:

Worse than you think

For this technology to work, Phorm needs your ISP to install hardware that utilizes deep-packet inspection to records your browsing. From that data, they serve ads on subscriber websites that they think will interest you based on where you’ve visited before.

Stating that you don’t have to visit sites with targeted ads shows that you miss the point. The problem is that your ISP is allowing this company to collect data about when and where, how-often you visit ANY site. Then making that data available to other companies to generate targeted ads. This is a serious privacy issue!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Worse than you think

And it’s obvious that your reading comprehension needs to improve.

Mike said in his write-up that, “The bill that is being discussed in New York would apparently apply to websites that do targeted advertising within the site.” So, this doesn’t apply to Phorm at all.

And in my reply, I explicitly stated, “I agree that the way Phorm went about it isn’t right.” IMO, Phorm’s method is a privacy violation unless you opt-in.

Basically, I agree with Mike on this one. If we’re talking about ads served from the site based on your browsing habits within the site, then it’s not an issue and doesn’t need legislation to ban it. It’s basically a condition of using the site.

Many of the comments thus far are focusing on Phorm, when it’s clear from reading the article that neither Mike, nor the legislation, are dealing with Phorm.

Shane Sloan says:

One easy fix

I believe that the easiest way to fix all this is to implement something like phorm in the US, but allow a customer to be paid for allowing phorm to be run.

So comcast with phorm: $60.00 / mo

comcast with phorm: $45.00 / mo

By “paying” the customer for the information, they would circumvent all this privacy crap. But asking a giant company to take a hit on pricing may be too much to ask…
They’d rather spend all that money lobbying senators, etc. than actually just pay the customer directly for the rights to sell information gained while surfing.

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