I’ve been asked to sketch the problems and opportunities of concepts such as anonymity and do-not-track
I’ve been asked to address some of the problems and opportunities surrounding anonymity and do-not track.
Publishers Data providers Firms such as De Cava Netpulse in gyms.
Advertisers operate on the assumption that, on the internet as in traditional media, commercial messages that parade as soft (or “human interest”) news and entertainment are more persuasive than straightforward ads. Publishers know this too and in the heat of a terrible economic downturn even the most traditional ones have begun to compromise long-standing professional norms about the separation of advertising and editorial matter. Many of the new online publishers—companies such as HowLifeWorks that turn out loads of content every day—never really bought into the old-world ideas about editorial integrity anyway.
JOSEPH TUROW ANNENBERG SCHOOL FOR COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA Beyond Anonymity
Queasy, Icky, Creepy <ul><li>Senator Claire McCaskill (2010): </li></ul><ul><li>''I understand that advertising supports the Internet, but I am a little spooked out,'' McCaskill said. ''This is creepy.'‘ </li></ul>
<ul><li>Joanna O’Connell of Forrester Research </li></ul><ul><li>“ There's sort of the human element, the sort of ick factor,” O’Connell said. “And marketers are aware of that. </li></ul>
<ul><li>When lawmakers and analysts confront an issue by invoking an “ick” or “creep” factor as a reason for their distaste, society has a problem. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Executives in the new advertising system sense that public thought leaders at the highest levels have not worked through the issue of audience tracking and labeling well enough to be able to present a succinct, logical argument about the harm it can cause. </li></ul><ul><li>Their business counterparts: Current laws suffice, and the issue is really psychological. </li></ul>
<ul><li>At the same time, marketing executives allow that many contemporary audiences dislike the thought of being followed. </li></ul><ul><li>The antidote, they argue, is anonymity. </li></ul><ul><li>Cookie based </li></ul><ul><li>Do-Not-Track </li></ul>
<ul><li>But a look at what anonymity means in practice, and what the public gains and doesn’t gain by it, shows that we have to move beyond the oft-cited creep factor to discuss what’s actually taking place. </li></ul><ul><li>What is at stake even when individuals are anonymous in the targeted, tailored digital space: </li></ul><ul><li>Social discrimination via reputation silos </li></ul>
<ul><li>The importance of the personalization of commercial messages offers goes far beyond whether or not the targets buy the products. </li></ul><ul><li>Advertisements and discounts are status signals: they alert people as to their social position. </li></ul><ul><li>There are many forces encouraging data persistence. </li></ul>
<ul><li>In fact, the advertising system is working to attach assign marketing labels to us based on the clicks we make, the conversations we have, and the friendships we enjoy on websites, mobile devices, iPads, supermarket carts, and even television sets. </li></ul>
<ul><li>In the future, these calculations of our marketing value, both broadly and for particular products, may become routine parts of the information exchanged about people throughout the media system. </li></ul><ul><li>If a company can follow your behavior in the digital environment—an environment that potentially includes your mobile phone and television set—its claim that you are “anonymous” is meaningless. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Technologies developed for personalized advertising and coupons point to possibilities for targeting individuals with personalized news and entertainment. </li></ul><ul><li>Not only is this already happening, the logic of doing that is becoming more urgent to advertisers and publishers. </li></ul>
<ul><li>What this means is that we are entering a world where publishers and even marketers will package personalized advertisements with soft news or entertainment tailored to fit both the selling needs of the ads and what the reputation of the individual. </li></ul>
<ul><li>There are many great things about the new media environment. </li></ul><ul><li>But when companies track people without their knowledge, sell their data without letting them know what they are doing or securing their permission, and then use that data to decide of those people are, in the words of the industry, “targets” or “waste,” we have a serious social problem. </li></ul>
<ul><li>If it’s allowed to fester, and when they begin to realize how it pits them against others in the ads they get, the discounts they receive, the TV-guide suggestions and news stories they confront, and even the offers they receive in the supermarket, they will get even more disconcerted and angry than they are now. </li></ul><ul><li>They will further distrust the companies that have put them in this situation, and they will be incensed at the government that has not helped to prevent it. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Do-not-track lists government and industry bodies are now discussing are helpful BUT </li></ul><ul><li>The industry’s real hope is that people won’t use them. </li></ul><ul><li>Public ignorance of the potential implications of allowing tracking, will not alleviate long-term tensions and dangers for society, media and marketers. </li></ul>
<ul><li>Enforce a regime of information respect . </li></ul><ul><li>Based on information reciprocity </li></ul>
<ul><li>If companies (including publishers) want to use information about individuals, the firms should </li></ul><ul><li>let those people know specifically where and how those notions originated— </li></ul><ul><li>and let people decide—even negotiate--how much, if any, of that information those firms can use, and in what ways. </li></ul>
<ul><li>None of this will be easy. </li></ul><ul><li>Getting such permissions may well raise the cost of using audience information in advertising, marketing, and media. </li></ul><ul><li>The payback, though, will be worth it in veering away from increasingly divisive, corrosive social-, media-, and marketing systems. </li></ul>
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