Feeds

Phorm takes a bullet for the advertising industry

Lightning conductor or plague carrier? You decide...

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Fast And Furious 6 cammer thrown in slammer for nearly three years
Man jailed for dodgy cinema recording of Hollywood movie
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
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?