Have you wondered why you see ads on the Web for alcohol when you’re in your 20s or ads for refinancing after you purchased a property or even ads for credit reports when you’ve visited a Web site about credit scoring? That’s called Ad-Targeting. After much debate, the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) agreed to not target specific sensitive demographics.
NAI has proposed to their publishers (that is, AOL’s Platform-A, Google’s DoubleClick, etc.) that they discard targeting data about the following topics:
- HIV/ AIDS status
- Sexually-related conditions (e.g., sexually transmitted diseases, erectile
- Psychiatric conditions
- Cancer status
- Sexual behavior/orientation/identity (i.e., Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender)
- Criminal victim status (e.g., rape victim status)
And they have considered these demographics to be used carefully:
Age, addictions (e.g., drugs, alcohol, gambling), alienage or nationality, criminal history, death, disability, ethnic affiliation, marital status, philosophical beliefs, political affiliation or opinions, pregnancy, race identification, religious affiliation (or lack thereof), trade union membership
I think this is a step in the right direction; however, anyone who has any experience in regulatory practices knows that this is merely an attempt to avoid government regulation. If an Advertising committee can say, “Look, we have these guidelines, we have standards,” Congress may just believe them. Let’s say advertisers agree to do this, there are minimal checks-and-balances to ensure all advertisers are behaving well with the data they obtain.
Targeting = Discrimination
I can’t seem to understand how it’s “appropriate” to target race or nationality. Does this mean that African Americans would receive ads for Pay Day Loans, conversely, a Caucasian would receive an ad for Refinancing? Before you allude to alleged racism, I’m just referring to a known statistic about the predatory loan industry. I wouldn’t doubt that the Internet Ad industry is any different.
Currently, it’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate against someone for basis of race, color, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability, marital status or veteran status. Why should advertisers be allowed to do it?
Is this Consumer Advocacy?
I don’t think so. Until all the advertisers agree to make it easy to opt-out from unwanted advertising/marketing, the issue will never heir on the side of consumers. The Internet Ad industry better be on guard — it’s only a matter of time until the FTC extends their control similar to telemarketing (National Do Not Call Registry), then they will gripe a lot more about restrictions.