Adify's Russ Fradin on Internet privacy

John Shinal · September 4, 2008 · Short URL:

Debate over data collection should be about more than opt-in versus opt-out

When the U.S. Congress held its first hearings on Internet privacy in July, some of the harshest questioning was directed at the CEO of NebuAd, whose technology helps cable companies and other service providers track user's Web surfing.

Russ Fradin of Adify, now part of Cox Enterprises, thinks the uproar of so-called deep-packet inspection technologies is due in part to consumers' desires not to have their non-purchasing behavior tracked.

On the other hand, people have gotten used to having data collected on what they buy.

For example, companies that sell through mail-order catalogs regularly share consumer data which results in "getting 50 catalogs around the holidays from companies I've never purchased anything from."
Such collection isn't opt in, yet people have come to accept it, says Fradin. 

While such data has been collected for decades, "online has been held to a different type of standard, perhaps rightly so, because it's such a personal medium."

During the hearings, at least one Congressman said he intended to introduce a bill next year that would make any such programs opt in.

Fradin says he favors industry self-regulation, because he's skeptical that lawmakers will be able to keep up with fast-changing behavioral-targeting technologies.

He also doesn't think the battle should be over opt-in versus opt-out, but on what type of data can be collected, and on educating consumers so they know what types of Web use is being tracked.

"It should me much more nuanced," than opt-in versus opt-out.

Still, as with Facebook's first attempt to make its Beacon technology opt-out, Internet firms will usually push the envelope when they can. It was only after an uproar that Facebook changed the program to opt in from opt out.

When it comes to the Internet, "There may be some things you can do with technology that you shouldn't be allowed to do."






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