Online Advertising Privacy Regulation: In It To Spin It!

AdAge is talking about the release of the free privacy online icon to smaller companies, not just the license of them to large companies. The icon allows users to opt-out of behavioral targeting. Here’s what the icon looks like:

Free Privacy Online Icon

Open or Closed

It’s not black and white but if it were, there would be ‘open’ people, and there would be ‘closed’ people with regard to behavior online.

Open: Yes, pay attention to my behavior so I don’t receive irrelevant ads. Oooh, horseback riding just a couple of miles away!
Closed: I do not want you to track anything I do online. And, stop sending me stupid ads! (?)

Open: Remember me. I’m terrible at remembering passwords and I sign up for a lot of stuff because I love the Internet.
Closed: Do not save or cookie any information of mine. Hey why do I have to fill out this form again! (?)

Open: Online privacy controls are fine, but allow me to hand the keys over to the Digital Advertising Alliance or FTC. Innocent until proven guilty. I have little to hide.
Closed: I demand online privacy controls, um I have no idea how to use them exactly, what does this lever do? (?)

My point is, smart people are making legislation in 2012 to give you closed people options, for your protection. But, you are wearing swimming earplugs to the fire hydrant party, it’s underkill.

You know how when a police car rides up behind you arbitrarily, though you are doing nothing wrong, he’s like a yellow jacket flying around your picnic sandwich, your heart rate increases, and you wish he’d leave? On the other hand, when the neighbors are fighting in the middle of the night and it sounds like are going to kill each other, when you see those red and blue flashing lights you feel safe and happy they are there?

That’s my policy. The government has every right (and responsibility) to protect you. You, as well, should have every right to opt out of that. Me? My policy is be careful with my money, and separate my spam from my important email, but other than that, I fall hard into the ‘open’ category. Here is a Klout.com list you can follow of others I find ‘open’ on Twitter:

My “open” list on Klout.

(…and by the way, I’m open to suggestions to that list. Because I’m open. You get it.)

Either way, as usual, expect growth in online ad spending in the upcoming years:

Online Ad Spending Forecast

Because as web sites, blogs, magazines, promotions and more expand online, so does the advertising landscape:

Online Ad Channels

The biggest activity (behavior) we take part in online (beside perhaps the one-handed 30-second rewind ~ meow!) is search. Here is where you’ll see most of the digital advertising:

Market Share by Search Engine

I Hate Shopping

An estimated that 30% of online digital ads ($28.5 billion) in the U.S. use behavioral tracking, says AdAge. I want my advertisers to know me, what I like, and how I act. Maybe I’m lacking the old-fashioned gene that makes people drive to a store and walk around looking on the racks and shelves for supplies. It just feels a bit Little House on the Prairie to me.

Online recommendations (live or culled), stylists and catalogs with fun interactivity and social sharing sounds better. Webvan is gone but did you notice Safeway has taken it back up?

Anticipatory web services

The Anticipatory/Predictive/ Intention Web

We all have silent little conversations with our computers, don’t we? Admit it. “No, that’s not what I meant.” “Go back.” “Are you still alive?” We talk to them like they are pets. We hope they will understand a few words we give them, knowing we will have to remind them again and again to get down off the couch, to stop eating slippers, to sit. We talk to other things too, lots of things, that don’t talk back with us.

Computers (software, web services), however, enable more complex discussions and as technology is taking hold of more and more of our time, there exists the early inefficiencies of any major change. The creation and distribution of information online, your information, and that of everyone else remains for the moment at a pivot point, balancing between traditional media control and a rising of consumer-driven content. The time is ripe for a significant advancement* in the “anticipatory web.” A change in the user experience is about to come.

Sit. Stay. Good Web.

CartoonIt’s fair to say I have spent a lot of my life on computers, on software development, and the marketing of each. Five years ago, my attention centered on connecting companies with their customers primarily by paying for lead information, casting test advertising nets into the Internet ocean, and mitigating their adoption concerns (i.e. understanding why they wouldn’t buy.) Now, working on our own software (finally) at Grabbit I am thinking more about the intelligence of software to understand a user’s needs, preferences, patterns, etc. (all without endangering their trust.)

The complex equations of algorithms combined with the implicit behavior and data given to us by the user will help developers create next-generation software systems that anticipate more fully who you are and what you want from an end-user perspective. We’ve seen baby steps in this direction for many years online. Auto-fill forms, “keep me logged in” buttons, and so on. But software can take a big step — a step that produces interaction.

Companies can address product or service concerns, or open public discussions about other issues concerning their customers and by doing so, anticipate what user’s want (importantly) based on use AND explicit feedback, for instance. In turn, customers can offer – by way of behavior or explicitly-given feedback – additional information about themselves. Also, because of periodic down economies, lack of capital and simple software that provides basic information, many software companies (especially internal divisions of large corporations and underfunded start-ups) circumvent market research, focus groups and other comprehensive testing techniques for the web services and pay for it in adoption or poor press.

* The term Anticipatory web is not in any way a ‘new’ term. Q. Why now? A. Product and service providers have conglomerated into several the major categories. They have matured enough to offer partner programs, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), and support for these. Concurrently, web service developers are creating sophisticated programs to anticipate consumer behavior, therefor unlocking revenue for many of the software companies who will have otherwise failed. Happy customer. Happy company. Happy investors.

Have an example to share? I’d love to hear about it!