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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Seth Finkelstein on Google’s Behavioral Targeting, and Media Reception

Seth Finkelstein in his latest Guardian column writes (note Seth didn’t pick the title for the article; his title suggestion was “Google’s interest-based advertising and surveillance as a service”):

I’m continually impressed by how Google is able to influence press coverage of its initiatives, in a way many other corporate behemoths must envy. One strategy it seems to use is rather than simply issuing a boring statement, it wraps a policy announcement around a tech gimmick. The shiny part distracts the non-tech media, while the techie part captures the interest of experts. Too many supposed watchdogs end up distracted by the equivalent of a chew toy.

In this case, the smoke and mirrors devices are an “Ads Preferences Manager which lets you view, delete, or add interest categories”, labels, and browser plug-ins for opting out. While these are all laudable in the abstract, they will be irrelevant for the overwhelming majority. (...)

In the same way that “total personalisation is total surveillance”, complete knowledge of one’s interests entails complete monitoring of one’s actions. At the very least, there should be safeguards and oversight that do not rely on the assurances of big businesses, which have every incentive to minimise any lapses or failings.

[Via Seth at Friendfeed.]


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