The Nuclear Option on Privacy

The Nuclear Option on Privacy: My student loan was recently transferred, and Sallie Mae sent me a notice of my “privacy rights.” Incredibly, I couldn’t even opt out of its transferring my financial information to unnamed “marketing partners.” No wonder the online ad industry is frustrated. There’s this idea that’s bandied about by advertising and technology executives frustrated by the never-ending privacy questions shrouding the industry. It’s basically this: shut off content to consumers who don’t opt in to both first-and-third-party targeting. You don’t want targeting, no problem. You can either pay the publisher a subscription fee for an ad-free experience — or one with untargeted ads — or agree that you’ll get tracked. This always seemed a bit fanciful since there are so many publishers and so many players in ad tech that managing it would be nearly impossible. But it probably bears scrutiny. Unsurprisingly, The Wall Street Journal has a story out on “supercookies” that regenerate themselves even after users have deleted their cookies. This is an issue addressed here recently, when I predicted this would become an issue for the industry. Now it is. The piece is fairly alarmist, which will do nothing to assuage critics of the “What They Know” series. But it does point back to the idea that maybe it’s time to throw in the towel on privacy and make a clean break. An opt-in regime would appear to solve many of the concerns and stop the fruitless debates on whether consumers really care about online tracking. It’s clear there are a separate set of rules for the digital media world compared to what goes offline.

Glam’s Mobile Ad Play: Glam is expanding into mobile. Techcrunch spins this as an assault on Apple’s iAds. The truth of the matter is Apple isn’t a huge ad player with iAds. Its business pales in comparison to Google’s, but it makes for a good headline. Yet Glam is focusing on the top end of the market, running bigger units with video designed to attract brands.

Google’s View of Mobile: It’s interesting to listen to how Google talks about mobile advertising versus the grand pronouncement of Steve Jobs. It’s clear the latter wants to make it better, more aesthetically pleasing. With Google, it’s all about scale. Sure, quality matters, but that’s more than a pretty ad. That’s using data to pinpoint location. It’s also making sure sites are viewable on mobile devices. Techcrunch has an interview with Google mobile exec Jason Spero that shows clearly Google is thinking about how it can lay the groundwork for a very large business.

Now the Web 2.0 Horror Stories: The end of the dot-com bubble was marked by all sorts of terrible stories about companies gone bad. There were plenty of bad characters who rushed into the gold rush to make a quick buck, only to leave others holding the bag. This time is no different. Fortune has the story of Blue Noodle, a Canadian social gaming ad network that appears on its way to extinction. What’s particularly noteworthy in this instance is the executive leadership in the company seems to have pretty much abandoned the company rather than wind it down.

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