ONLINE advertising is booming. Digital-ad revenues in America in the first half of the year reached a record $32.7bn, according to the latest figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group. For marketing folk, digital ads have great appeal because consumers’ online data can be used to direct what they think are the right advertisements to the right shoppers. But tracking has become increasingly contentious in both America and Europe.
On October 27th America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a new rule to protect personal privacy online. Internet-service providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, must now ask consumers for permission if they want to gather and share data deemed to be sensitive, including financial information and users’ browsing history.
However, the FCC’s rule is notable not for settling a debate, but stirring it. Marketers and digital-ad firms insist that they already police themselves well. They consider data on browsing and apps, in particular, to be essential for targeted advertising. Under the FCC’s rule consumers can “opt in” to share this information, but firms fear that many will not.
There is a limit to the FCC’s order, which perversely makes it only more controversial. It will restrict data collection by internet providers, but have little impact on broader online tracking….Continue reading