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Behavioral advertising: Poor excuse for regulation

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Behavioral advertising: Poor excuse for regulation

With U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and now the Federal Trade Commission holding hearings on privacy and online advertising, it seemed like a good time to visit the Google Privacy Center to see what categories Google believes I fall into based on my online behavior.
My interests were:News & Current EventsThat was it.
I could opt out of interest-based advertising or manage my ad preferences at the Google site, but, I figured, what’s the point?
A Google representative told the New York Times that the Privacy Center pulls in tens of thousands of visitors each week. For every one person who opts out, four people change the categories they have fallen into, and 10 people do nothing, just look over the information on the site.
The same article quotes an academic who notes that some consumers do not understand behavioral advertising, and that “people are confused about which part of a Web page is advertising.” So apparently the argument is regulation is justified because it would relieve some people of the responsibility to get educated.
But one of the chief problems with any regulation — no matter how well-intentioned — is the difficulty containing it. For example, “a number of parties have suggested it would be appropriate to extend these privacy rights as a consumer protection to the offline side as well,” Rep. Boucher says.