Feeds

Phorm takes a bullet for the advertising industry

Lightning conductor or plague carrier? You decide...

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The unlikely image of Phorm boss Kent Ertugrul as some kind of John the Baptist of behavioural targeting was conjured yesterday as advertising industry leaders pondered the future of online advertising.

"I think from a media owner perspective it was good that Phorm drew the sting for everybody else," Microsoft Advertising sales director Chris Maples told the audience at the International Advertising Association's Digital Download in London.

Phorm, the general consensus seemed to be, had "taken a bullet for the rest of the industry," but the quest for more relevant - and hence more lucrative - advertising on the Internet continues. This may turn out to be an overly optimistic analysis, however, because although Phorm has provided a textbook example of what not to do, it's still pretty easy for everybody else to catch stray bullets. In the next few weeks the US House of Representatives will be considering legislation on the subject, and a team from Brussels is due in Washington this month to coordinate regulatory measures.

Meanwhile in a speech earlier this week, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding cited behavioural advertising as one of three major privacy concerns, the others being social networking - where she threatened to act if Facebook et al did not, at minimum, make the profiles of minors private by default - and RFID (aka the Internet of Things).

David Wood, legal counsel for Brussels lobbyist ICOMP and one of several attendees who had also been present for Reding's speech, reported that there was currently a "huge interest" in behavioural targeting in Brussels, and that Reding had been "devastating in her critique of Phorm." The Commission, he said, is not yet entirely up to speed as regards online advertising, having only started to look at it in the the last two or three years. But Wood says he has seen tangible changes in the atmosphere over the last 18 months, and that Europe now has the building blocks to begin dealing with the issues.

In Reding's speech, Phorm certainly continued to wear the bullseye. "European privacy rules are crystal clear," she said, "a person's information can only be used with their prior consent... The Commission is closely monitoring the use of behavioural advertising to ensure respect for our privacy rights. I will not shy away away from taking action where an EU country falls short of this duty. A first example is the infringement action the Commission has taken with regard to the United Kingdom in the Phorm case."

Insofar as Phorm and the UK government continue to draw fire over specific infringements, Phorm could certainly be seen as 'taking one for the industry', but an obvious consequence of the episode is that it's not just Phorm that now has trouble getting arrested. The fallout leaves a widespread view of behavioural advertising as sinister and invasive.

So in the one corner you have Microsoft's Chris Maples making the pitch for the convenience of relevant advertising via the eminently sensible point that if you advertise in Vogue, or in a football magazine, you expect to reach a specific kind of reader and the specific kind of reader expects to see a specific kind of ad. That's the pitch the industry has to sell Brussels and the US legislature, and it's one that is, up to a point, reasonable (but the reasonableness breaks down as and when you start getting tagged as 'football mag reader' wherever you go).

In the other corner, meanwhile, you have the recent survey by the Universities of California and Pennsylvania which found that most Americans don't want tailored advertising and object to being tracked. It's going to be a tough sell to both the legislators and the users. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?