Personalization and Paranoia: Know Your Customers, but Not Too Much

Ann All

Even as analysts encourage companies to grow their online businesses by cozying up to their customers with more social features and personalized promotions, there appears to be growing unease about the amount of personal data companies are collecting.


To address these concerns, the Federal Trade Commission is conducting meetings this week to discuss digital privacy, reports the New York Times. No doubt timed to coincide with the meetings, a coalition of consumer groups is asking for a digital version of the federal do-not-call list, which would allow folks to opt out of online programs that track Web usage in an effort to serve up targeted advertisements.


AOL has already announced its own version of the service -- although it is also launching an advertising campaign to help convince consumers that, in essence, if you gotta view ads, they might as well have some relevance to you.


Google, the company that stands to lose the most if consumers become more cagey about their Web habits, earlier this year said it would shorten the shelf life of the cookies it issues to help track Internet behavior. The new policy calls for cookies to expire two years after a user visits a site -- rather than storing the information for more than 30 years.


The digital privacy issue will likely heat up even more as Google, Microsoft and others position personalized ads at the center of their future business plans. Facebook, the site in which Microsoft recentlyinvested $240 million, early next week is expected to roll out a targeted advertising program designed to compete with Google's AdSense program, reports

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