Evidence on behavioural targeting

In thinking about the shift towards online promotional activity, one of the perceived benefits to marketers is the potential for using information about a user’s web browsing behaviour to target adverts based on likely interests. However, such benefits can raise potential privacy concerns amongst users. So-called behavioural targeting can be shallow (using cookies) or based on what is called ‘deep packet inspection’. In Chapter 7, you will find a short case on Phorm – a BT firm that has attracted a lot of criticism. The Office of Fair Trading has just published a very useful market study of behavioural targeting in the UK. It includes estimates of market size, an assessment of consumer attitudes, perceived benefits and disbenefits, and potential regulatory remedies.

Copyright? Who wants to know?

A refusal in January 2010 by the Minister of State for Business, Innovation & Skills to share the paperwork on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement with British MPs indicates how sensitive the discussion on cross-border copyright issues have become. It”s common practice, says David Lammy, to keep such negotiations confidential. But some (notably Chris Williams writing for The Register) sees a darker side to this, claiming that this suggests the outcome of the negotiations are likely to be favourable to established interests in the music and film industries. In Chapter 5, we made it clear that the conventional framework for the protection of IP (intellectual property) had struggled to keep up with the Internet. Trade-offs, we said, lay at the heart of intellectual property. Without legal protection, any  innovations run the risk of becoming, in effect, public goods through copying and are susceptible to abuse by free riders, who may contribute less than their fair share of the costs of production. On the other hand, it is all very well to reward innovation and creativity by granting exclusive rights to the innovators, but this may lead to monopoly pricing, the exclusion of other innovators and undesirable costs to consumers. Getting the balance right is pretty important.

Net neutrality: not a neutral issue

A short, but effective, defence of net neutrality by Nicholas Economides of the Stern School of Business, can be found in the Financial Times. The gist is that, by following the ‘golden rules’ of regulation (non-discrimination and transparency), the potential for innovation can be enhanced.