Vator Reports: Online privacy in the age of behavioral-targeted ads

Bambi Francisco Roizen · December 17, 2007 · Short URL:

The findings of a new report on consumers' attitudes toward online privacy are at odds with the recent uproar over how social-networking sites like Facebook share user data with advertisers and other Web sites.

If those attitudes stick, the Facebook ad tempest may ultimately end up fitting in a teapot.

Under pressure from privacy advocates, bloggers and the political advocacy group, Facebook  on Dec. 5 reversed course and made its social-ad platform, called Beacon, an opt-in program, rather than forcing users to opt out as the company initially planned.

Making Beacon opt-in gave Facebook users the power to decide how much of their online behavior would be shared with their social network friends. But as we wrote in this post here, the about-face also raised the question of whether just who would care to use that power.

The latest study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that, for better or worse, a solid majority of Web users -- 60% of them, in fact -- aren't concerned about the amount of personal data available about them online.

The surprising part of the study was that teens were more conscientious about their online data than were adults. See the full report here.

The findings suggest that in an age of reality shows, best-selling memoirs and on-air confessions, most consumers don't mind trading away some privacy for the convenience the Web can provide.

That conclusion has huge implications for how fast Web sites, their users and advertisers adopt new online services that target online ads based on Internet users' behavior. The rate of adoption will impact scores of behavioral-ad startups and Web analytics firms like, and others.

Just how much users care about their online data, and whether they should care more, is the focus of this week's Vator Reports.

First, Bambi Francisco points out just how much of our online behavior is available to anyone who wants to access it.

Then, John Shinal explains the Facebook ad controversy and the ins and outs of the new ad technologies known as either social advertising or behavioral advertising.

Drawing on the lessons of how people use and Google, Bambi and John then discuss how likely consumers are to opt into behavioral-ad programs. They also talk about the differences in U.S. and EU privacy laws.

Finally, the show looks at some of the winners of the latest competition.

Editors' Note: Next week, look for our end-of-the-year holiday special, where we'll look back at's first year. To see our last show, which debated whether content or distribution would be the most profitable business model for Web video, click here.


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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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