David Prosser: Big brother is not such a threat just yet
Wednesday 26 May 2010
Outlook Privacy campaigners may not like the ruling, but the Office of Fair Trading's announcement yesterday that self-regulation remains the best way forward for the "behavioural advertising" industry was the right one.
There is no denying that this is a technology that worries a great number of people. The idea that large corporations have access to considerable amounts of data about their customers has always been controversial. But in the internet world, where companies can monitor every keyboard stroke you make while online, the privacy arguments are even stronger – particularly when the point of such snooping is to give commercial organisations the opportunity to target advertising at you very personally and specifically.
Still, there is already a code of conduct in place, operated by the Internet Advertising Bureau, to police the way such technology is used. Broadly speaking, it works much like the system that protects people who don't want to receive unsolicited marketing material. A company that wants to collect data about how you use the internet has to give you the opportunity to opt out of its reach.
In addition, the most sophisticated technologies, such as those pioneered by Phorm, are more robustly policed and – in the UK, at least – not personalised. Nor has there yet been any evidence of targeted pricing, one worry about this technology, where companies might charge certain people more if they have evidence these customers would be likely to accept higher prices.
It's easy to get worked up about the "big brother" society, but the OFT's own research suggests this is an industry worth less than £100m a year currently. And more than two-thirds of the consumers it spoke to said they either didn't particularly mind the idea of behavioural advertising or even that they liked it.
There are no doubt improvements to be made to the self-regulation system – the OFT suggested several yesterday – as the industry develops. But full-scale regulation is not yet necessary. It may become so, but let's not introduce more red tape just to pacify a very vocal campaign group.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
- 2 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 5 Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Ian Thorpe gay: Olympic swimmer comes out in Parkinson interview
Stephen Fry ‘criticises Operation Yewtree in dinner party rant’ calling for tougher laws to deter false sex abuse allegations
Israel-Gaza conflict: ‘Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and chairs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli air strike destroys home for the disabled killing two women residents
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli PM says conflict may 'continue for a long time' as hundreds of Palestinians flee their homes
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Emergency data law: David Cameron plots to bring back snoopers’ charter
NUT strike: David Cameron announces crackdown on strike action ahead of mass industrial action
iJobs Money & Business
£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...
£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...
£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...
£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...