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Internet Marketers Closely Watch House Hearings

25 Jun, 2009 Response This Week

NEW YORK – The government’s battle with marketers over legislation for behavioral targeting continued last week when the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet met with the Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, reports The hearing, led by Commerce Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), brings up mixed feelings among Web entities on whether or not Web publishers can self-regulate or the government should step in.

Yahoo! agreed on the importance of a consumer’s privacy, saying that advertisers should be transparent about practices in order to build trust. Yahoo! recently enacted a data retention policy in which the company will retain most of its Web log data for no more than 90 days.

“Our business depends almost entirely on the trust of our users,” said Anne Toth, vice president of policy and head of privacy at Yahoo!, in a statement. “Our approach to privacy couples front-end transparency, meaningful choice and user education with back-end protections for data that limit how much information and how long personal identifiers are maintained.”

On the flip side, Google is in favor of the federal legislation, citing that leaving the decisions to the local level would create challenges. “Congress is certainly interested in introducing some sort of privacy legislation later this year,” says Christine Chen, a spokeswoman for Google. “It is really unclear to us what kind it will be. Whether it will be a broad-based effort [covering consumer privacy] or whether it will be specifically related to behavioral targeting, we honestly don’t know what they are going to do.”

Google did introduce its own behavioral targeting, called Ad Preferences Manager, in beta in March. The platform allows users to pick the interest-based ads they want to receive or opt out of them altogether. Chen says Google believes strongly in privacy protection and Ad Preferences Manager is a reflection of this.

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