Striking a balance between privacy and power

March 3, 2010

Turow’s article brings up the interesting point that as content becomes fragmented on the Web, advertisers are looking more toward direct advertising to generate revenue – and their main weapon is surveillance.  Before discussing privacy issues, I ask a question – do we want to be advertised to in the first place?

I think the answer for most people is “sometimes”.  There’s a reason why I use FireFox with AdBlock – I don’t like to see, hear, or click through obnoxious ads.  Clearly, advertisers are worried about this just as much as they were worried about TiVo skipping over their television ads.  And if advertisers aren’t making money, they won’t host ads, hurting content providers.

Is direct marketing the answer?  I think the answer is “maybe”. (I think I’ve hit my ambiguity quota for today) I personally am fine with choose-your-own-ads and limited surveillance, provided that advertisers will not sell any of their data to other companies.  Hulu is doing a great job with their ads in my book, although they are still struggling to find consistent advertisers.  If the ad companies truly won’t sell their data and make that known, then direct marketing can work.  Otherwise, it will be seen as an invasion of privacy and abandoned.  Things didn’t work out so well for Beacon and Facebook, though they seem to be bringing in revenue now (estimated one billion for 2010).

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