lunes, julio 06, 2009

Privacy and cartelization

[This entry posted in English due to potential cross-border interest.]

In an interesting note in the New York Times, Saul Hansell discusses an announcement made last week by the interactive advertising industry (also reported in the New York Times) regarding changes in the privacy policies of interactive advertisers, in particular referring to behavioral targeting.

Hansell says: "Here’s what will happen under the minimum standards in the new plan: Everything will occur exactly the same as before, except that the link you click for the vaguely worded generalities will be called something like 'advertising information' rather than 'privacy policy.'"

In Spanish we use the expression "la misma gata pero revolcada" and the well-known lawyer Joel Gómez has used it for this case too.

The discussion about issues like this usually arrives at a dark if not blind alley called "all companies are doing essentially the same thing, so users [hey! they are consumers and even - to marketers' horror - citizens!) should stop feeling concerned and carry on, as nobody will change their privacy or data protection policies to attract privacy minded users because there is no business in doing so."

Now I posit that this is sheer cartelization, an agreement to not compete, and in the eyes of some lawyers as well as citizen and consumer organizations be seen as restraint of trade. That would be an angle to explore and discuss.

A note is required here: the policies have been published by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, an organization whose chapter in Mexico works well and which I highly esteem, and I do not consider behavioral targeting and other forms of personalization and targeting of advertising online as intrinsically bad. I have learned from true experts like Dave Morgan who are upright citizens of the world to understand these techniques and appreciate them. My view here is that their implementation need be more transparent than till now, that disclosure of what is being done and opportunity to exert all data protection rights, and/or provide informed consent, must be openly provided, and, for the particular case of Mexico, emerging legislation for the protection of personal data in the possession of private entities must prepare to give due consideration to these developments.