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April 27, 2006

Privacy Report from Ad:Tech

Ad:Tech San Francisco, one of the largest conferences on new advertising technologies, is this week. It's a great conference to learn about how companies are using personal information.

I saw several trends that have serious privacy implications:

First, as one might expect, there is a lot of attention focused on personal data verification services. Data verification is crucial to e-commerce, and is routinely used in credit card transactions. My concern is that these technologies are becoming very inexpensive, and could be used regularly to enhance or append data when one registers on a website. As a result, fudging personal information in order to protect privacy may not work anymore.

Second, there was a neuromarketing company there. These outfits measure brain waves in order to determine whether individuals respond to marketing. Of course, individuals are free to volunteer for such measurement. But the salesperson explained to me that technology acts like a super lie detector. The company can detect how an individual reacts to certain information, such as a picture of a crime scene, and determine whether the individual recognizes the scene! Will this technology be used by employers and law enforcement?

Third, several mobile marketing companies had prominent displays. Mobile marketing is risky from a privacy perspective because it encourages individuals to give out their wireless phone numbers. These numbers can be collected, used for telemarketing, and for wireless 411 databases. Several database companies already claim to have tens of millions of wireless phone numbers linked to individuals' identities.

Fourth, the good news is that there is continued attention to search engine marketing. Search engine marketing can be performed without any personal information, however, personalized marketing will depend on at least clickstream data.

Finally, I also encountered a company that writes articles for clients, and places them as real news articles in newspapers and websites.

Posted by Chris Hoofnagle at April 27, 2006 04:33 PM

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