Three from the past week (or so):

WSJ What They Know I

From Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal:

Shunned Profiling Technology on the Verge of Comeback

One of the most potentially intrusive technologies for profiling and targeting Internet users with ads is on the verge of a comeback, two years after an outcry by privacy advocates in the U.S. and Britain appeared to kill it.

The technology, known as “deep packet inspection,” is capable of reading and analyzing the “packets” of data traveling across the Internet. It can be far more powerful than “cookies” and other techniques commonly used to track people online because it can be used to monitor all online activity, not just Web browsing. Spy agencies use the technology for surveillance.

Now, two U.S. companies, Kindsight Inc. and Phorm Inc., are pitching deep packet inspection services as a way for Internet service providers to claim a share of the lucrative online ad market.

Browser, beware.

WSJ What They Know II

From Monday’s Wall Street Journal:

EU Chews on Web Cookies

Europe’s effort to regulate online “cookies” is crumbling, exposing how tough it is to curb the practice of tracking Internet users’ movements on the Web.

Seeking to be a leader in protecting online privacy, the European Union last year passed a law requiring companies to obtain consent from Web users when tracking files such as cookies are placed on users’ computers. Enactment awaits action by member countries.

Now, Internet companies, advertisers, lawmakers, privacy advocates and EU member nations can’t agree on the law’s meaning. Is it sufficient if users agree to cookies when setting up Web browsers? Is an industry-backed plan acceptable that would let users see—and opt out of—data collected about them? Must placing cookies on a machine depend on the user checking a box each time?

The answers are mired in bickering.

“We’re now in a sort of no man’s land,” says Bridget Treacy, head of the U.K. privacy practice at law firm Hunton & Williams LLP.

Did we mention browser, beware?

NYT What They Neuro

From the 11/13 New York Times:

Making Ads That Whisper to the Brain

Neuromarketing’s raison d’être derives from the fact that the brain expends only 2 percent of its energy on conscious activity, with the rest devoted largely to unconscious processing. Thus, neuromarketers believe, traditional market research methods — like consumer surveys and focus groups — are inherently inaccurate because the participants can never articulate the unconscious impressions that whet their appetites for certain products.

If pitches are to succeed, they need to reach the subconscious level of the brain, the place where consumers develop initial interest in products, inclinations to buy them and brand loyalty, says A. K. Pradeep, the founder and chief executive of NeuroFocus, a neuromarketing firm based in Berkeley, Calif.

Note to self: Just beware.

Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


John Carroll, who also writes at Campaign Outsider and It's Good to Live in a Two-Daily Town, is a media analyst and mass communication professor at Boston University.
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