Technology and Business Law Blog

Targeted Advertising on the Internet

-The biggest gripe against social networking sites is invasion of privacy. Even as these social networking companies tout that they will not share the users personal information with others and has statements of respecting privacy on their websites we all know that it is not completely adhered to. Every time we shop or pay bills on-line our personal information is being disseminated a little bit more, it is a slow unnoticeable leak which spreads around without causing waves. The other day I was shopping at the Disney store and the cashier asked me for my home phone number and my zip code and like most people I in an auto reflex and preprogrammed manner gave it to her, and after about half an hour I went back to the same store and bought another toy for my child and the cashier once again asked the same questions “what is your home phone number?” and your “zip code please” and I told her I just gave that information a little while ago and she replied we have to get that every time you buy sometime, and when I told her I did not want to give my home phone number she got a bit cold and unfriendly.

For some reason when we go outside the house and in a commercial setting or when we fill out forms for various reasons we just automatically fill in all the information that is asked for in the various headings starting from out date of birth to social security number without thinking or asking why is this being asked and is it a requirement or what if I don’t give all this information being asked.

It is all over the news about how Facebook is expanding its business through targeting advertising by sharing the users online purchases with the user’s “friends” without really giving opt out options and by displaying private purchases made on the Facebook News Feeds. Now I don’t want my friends to know where and what under clothes or hygiene products I shop for or use and definitely don’t want it being shared automatically with the other users on Facebook without my permission.

Also when we use or search for something on the Internet using search engines like Yahoo or Google we are being tracked and even if this information is not being shared openly with the world our online movements are totally exposed and the only alternative is not to use the Internet. Now is that possible in today’s wired world where all that we need even to conduct our day to day business is connected to the Internet?

The European Union has a balanced approach to these issues and has placed a time limit on search engines retaining the web search information. The EU also has greater restrictions on divulging information and has stricter privacy policies. Since Facebook’s advertising program delivers ads based on user interests and those of their friends, so it may be a target for future EU crack down. Read Article here.


November 26, 2007 Posted by | EU, Facebook, privacy, Targeted advertising | 1 Comment

Google Watch Where You Are Heading

Microsoft faced antitrust violation allegations in the United States which was settled in 2002 but Microsoft had been paying millions of dollars to several companies like Sun Microsystems and RealNetworks to settle antitrust disputes, but in the European Union the court of First Instance held that Microsoft had abused its dominant position in the operating system market by bundling it’s products together. The European courts take a stricter view on antitrust, monopolistic practices and privacy issues. The court held that the Commission was right in requiring Microsoft to share technical specifications with it’s rivals and it also required the company to offer unbundled options to consumers if if tied two products together. Further the court also upheld the $613 million fine imposed by the Commission.

Basically the court wants to promote competition, innovation and provide choice to other innovators and consumers. The competition commissioner Neelie Kroes stated ” The court has upheld a landmark commission decision to give consumers more choice in software markets. That decision sets an important precedent in terms of the obligations of dominant companies to allow competition in particular in high tech industries.”

In Washington, Assistant Attorney General Thomas O. Barnett said the European ruling “may have the unfortunate consequence of harming consumers by chilling innovation and discouraging competition.”
“In the United States, the antitrust laws are enforced to protect consumers by protecting competition, not competitors.”

When Microsoft was targeted for antitrust suits in the 2000’s it was the elephant amongst the technology companies but now Google seems to have taken Microsoft’s place with it’s tentacles in every pie and is expanding further than Microsoft ever could contemplate and now Microsoft having taken the back seat. It will be interesting to see after this decision in Europe the effect it will have on the Google-DoubleClick merger and the antitrust allegations filed with the Federal Trade Commission. The merger allows Google to become the most dominant player in the search engine space. DoubleClick is a company that primarily develops and provides Internet as serving services and it advertises itself as the nerve center of digital marketing.

Google could be easily be classified as the most monopolist company in this era and it is already a target in EU for the privacy issues presented by it’s street view and other technology that peeps into an individual’s personal life, data and tracks each of their moves in the internet. See my earlier blog

While Google collects the search engine histories of it’s users, DoubleClick tracks what websites people visit and with both companies merging they could have access to too much information on each consumer internet activities and the impact on consumer privacy. Google has a market capitalization of $162 billion and the Federal Trade Commission and the European Union are still reviewing the merger on the initiative taken by watch groups like the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center which filed a complaint with FTC on April 20, 2007 about the merger and on September 17, 2007 filed a supplement stating that it is providing additional evidence about Google-DoubleClick business practices that fail to comply with accepted privacy safegaurds.

September 18, 2007 Posted by | Antitrust, DoubleClick, EU, FTC, Google, Microsoft, Monopoly, privacy | 1 Comment