• Mondelez International—the makers of Oreo cookies, Cadbury chocolate and Trident gum, among other treats—quietly started becoming an e-commerce brand with a a small test in Europe earlier this year. Now, Mondelez plans to convert all its digital media in 25 countries into shoppable ads with "buy now" buttons to drive sales through retailers like Walmart and Amazon. The goal is to double Mondelez's online revenue over the next couple of years, particularly on social media where millennials are spending a substantial amount of time. Despite the hefty, multiyear investment, consumer-packaged-goods brands like Mondelez have long struggled with e-commerce—90 percent of grocery sales are still made in stores (link is external), and some experts question how big a dent the Deerfield, Ill.-based company can make. "I doubt that anyone at Mondelez or anywhere else thinks it will be groundbreaking or an enormous new revenue strategy, but it shows they're willing to test and learn," said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. "It doesn't cost much to experiment in this way, and at least they capture some data and insights that could help personalization and marketing efforts later.” Calls to action on Mondelez's video, social and display media prompt people to buy the products being advertised. The ads are geo-targeted to retailers' websites. For example, an ad served in New York might link to online grocery-shopping site Peapod (link is external), while a promo viewed in Chicago could direct potential customers to In both examples, users can buy a snack and have it shipped from a nearby store. Cindy Chen, Mondelez's global head of e-commerce, acknowledged that CPGs have a hard time with e-commerce but claimed retailers like the buy button because it gives them a bit of free traffic. "The role of our 'buy now' button is really taking the traffic that we have from the brand side to the retailer," Chen said. More at: (link is external)
  • Blog

    Don’t forget big data in TTIP and TISA

    The issues of data sovereignty and data protection have been sadly lacking in the debate on trade agreements, writes historian Svend Aage Christensen.

    It is crystal clear what corporations want in the Transatlantic trade greement (TTIP) and the other treaties being negotiated: a commitment to allow cross border data flows and data-processing across all services sectors, including financial services, without any limitations. They consider requirements to use local network infrastructure or local servers as discriminatory, with potentially adverse effects on trade. According to Michael Froman, the American chief negotiator, this is high on the agenda in the trade negotiations. It is common to talk about big data as the raw material of the new digital economy of the 21st century, and as an important factor in every industry and business function. In agriculture, for example, the farmers transfer large amounts of business and production information regarding their planting, production and harvesting practices to their service providers. All this data can be connected in business models, where the sale of seeds, plant protection, fertilizer, sensor capacity, analytical capacity and high-tech equipment may be combined with marketing of the crop and with banking, insurance and pension services. This can be used to make the farmer totally dependent and thereby further strengthen monopolistic features among the service providers. Big data floods all aspects of life. As the first big insurance company in Europe, the Italian based Generali Group is now aiming at digital control of its customers. Via an app, they are expected to send data regarding their health, fitness, lifestyle etc. to Generali, and may be awarded a cheaper premium, if they are in good shape. Predictably, some algorithm will determine that we need to pay higher health insurance premiums, if we refuse to have our bodies hooked up to cables, or if we don’t exercise daily. More at: (link is external)
  • Blog

    Digging into the Cross-Device Implications of the Verizon-AOL Deal

    Verizon is hooked into 1.5 billion connected devices across the world, responsible for about 70% of all Internet traffic. The next step is to match user identity across those devices.

    Verizon has access to deterministic data – and now it ostensibly owns the programmatic tech to put that data to work via AOL, which the telecom bought for $4.4 billion on Monday. This isn’t Verizon’s first stab at ad tech. Precision Market Insights (link is external), the company’s addressable advertising division, has been groping about, with various degrees of success, for a way to take advantage of Verizon’s rich user data, which includes everything from email and browsing history to phone number and physical mailing address – all of which in theory could be used to connect device IDs across mobile, desktop and TV. “Verizon obviously has a great asset here, a significant user base, and once that becomes available for media buying, it’s going to be very valuable for cross-device connectivity, assuming they can get fully integrated into AOL’s platforms,” said Michael Collins, CEO of mobile DSP Adelphic. The merger is a clear sign of Verizon’s desire to go head to head with Facebook and Google in terms of scale, a “symptom of a larger recognition in ad tech that” those platforms “are only going to grow more dominant,” said Martin Kihn, research director at Gartner. More at: (link is external)
  • Blog

    Researching the New Shopper Experience

    Exploring how shopper are more digital and emotional, while research is more implicit and virtual shopping itself is changing.

    The internet and the usage of smartphones has altered buying –shops are becoming much more experience oriented. They deliver emotions, they address certain values and develop a narrative for shoppers. New payment methods, self-service cashiers are out, while digital signage is getting more accessible. In short, there are many new questions around the shopper. We want to give an update about the recent trends and findings. Third many new research devices have appeared on the market. Many of them provide data about the implicit consumer processes like attention, emotion and behavior. Shoppers can be assessed through video cameras and smart phones. Algorithms allow for an automatic detection about their position, speed and initial emotional reactions. Eye tracking is now miniaturised and affordable and hence provides exact information about visual attention in large-scale samples. Virtual 3D technologies allow pre-testing on a much more realistic level than it used to be. Furthermore consumer technologies like wrist bands are used for assessing activity and emotions. All of these methods claim to go beyond the limitations of self-reported measurements, and to deliver extended insights especially about-hidden drivers. In the workshop, we want to give an overview of these new technologies, the potential added value and the limitations. Using our experience with successes and failures we want to give advice on the right usage and the right communication. We will also have a special section to address privacy questions coming out of these new techniques. More (link is external) at: (link is external)
  • Twitter’s recent agreement to purchase mobile retargetting company TellApart (link is external) was just the latest round in the ongoing industry consolidation.
  • So-called “native advertising” ─where advertiser-produced or –directed content is designed to blend in with online editorial information ─ is quickly becoming a dominant way American consumers receive marketing. Marketers in the U.S. spent nearly $8 billion last year on native ads (up $3 billion from 2013), which is expected to rise to $21 billion by2018.1 Native ads are where the “format and the tone match that of a publisher’s original editorial content.2 1 (link is external)‐native‐ads‐will-soar-as-publishers‐and‐ 2 “The Native-Advertising Report: Spending Trends, Format Breakdowns, and Audience Attitudes.” Mark Hoelzel, BI Intellengence. 6 Nov. 2014, personal copy.
    Jeff Chester
  • Digital Data and Consumer Protection: Ensuring a Fair and Equitable Financial Marketplace. Author and Professor Frank Pasquale discusses his new book "The Black Box Society," on the growing use of secret algorithms to categorize consumers. A Project of US PIRG Education Fund & Center for Digital Democracy Part 1: Keynote by Professor Frank Pasquale, author of "The Black Box Society" (Harvard University Press 2015) (link is external) Part 2 (Panel 1): Advocates Sarah Ludwig, (New Economy Project-NYC) and Alexis Goldstein ( (link is external)) w/ Frank Pasquale and Ed Mierzwinski, USPIRG Education Fund (link is external) Part 3 (Panel 2) : Regulators Jessica Rich (FTC) and Peggy Twohig (CFPB) w/ Frank Pasquale and Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy (link is external) About this project: American consumers face new challenges and opportunities to their financial security as our economy is transformed by the convergence of digital media with “Big Data” technologies. Our use of mobile phones, social media, “apps,” and other online tools have created new ways for us to spend, save and borrow money. Powerful forces are at work, however, that can undermine a consumer’s ability to make the best choices and may place those already financially at risk even more vulnerable. The digital data-driven economy continually gathers vast amounts of information on individuals, online and offline, which is used to create a “profile” about our spending habits, behavior and our geo-location. These profiles can be “scored”—an invisible measure known only to the marketer and data brokers—that can determine whether we are offered high interest credit cards, payday and for-profit college loans and even what we may pay at retail and grocery stores. The uses of the information can be positive or, absent any regulation or meaningful protections, lead to discrimination, price manipulation or denied opportunity. Our collected personal information is merged into an ever-expanding database of information that enables firms we may know about and many others we don’t know to engage in personalized high-tech marketing and advertising practices designed to get us—and our families—to continually spend more money. In today’s online world, a consumer can be targeted for offers nearly 24/7, whether we use a mobile phone, computer, or while watching TV. American consumers do not have meaningful safeguards for these data analytics and digital marketing practices, including both protecting their privacy and preventing misuse of their information to deny economic opportunity. USPIRG Education Fund (link is external) and the Center for Digital Democracy are working together to ensure that consumers are treated fairly by this new digital “wild west” financial marketplace. Case Studies and Reports: Online Lead Generation: What You need-to-know to Protect Yourself from Companies in the Business of Secretly Selling You to Predatory Payday and Other Short-term Loan Companies (link is external) (May 2015) Targeting Hispanics for Leads in the Digital Big Data Era (link is external)(May 2015) Private For-Profit Colleges and Online Lead Generation: Private Universities Use Digital Marketing to Target Prospects, Including Veterans, via the Internet (link is external) (May 2015) Big Data Means Big Opportunities and Big Challenges: Promoting Financial Inclusion and Consumer Protection in the “Big Data” Financial Era (link is external) (March 2014) Law Review Articles: Selling Consumers Not Lists: The New World of Digital Decision-Making and the Role of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (link is external), Suffolk University Law Review, (December 2013) Available Video and Webinar Presentations: Video archive (link is external) of the “Data, Lending, and Civil Rights” conference at Georgetown University, 8 April 2015, (agenda and information (link is external)) sponsored by Americans for Financial Reform, The Leadership Conference Education Fund and the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law. (Ed Mierzwinski’s panel begins at approximately 2h 45m and Ed’s main remarks at approximately 3h 2m 30sec.) USPIRG Education Fund and Center for Digital Democracy acknowledge the support of the Ford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment and the Digital Trust Foundation for support of our research and education work on data and financial opportunity. We thank them for their support but acknowledge that the work, events, reports and investigations are those of the authors and organizations alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Foundations. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (link is external)
  • Answering Your Questions About Google's Forthcoming DMP by Zach Rodgers (link is external) // Friday, April 24th, 2015 – 3:53 pm On Wednesday, Adweek's Garrett Sloane reported (link is external) that Google is finally, officially (no, really) closing the last big gap in its ad tech stack. That is to say, it's coming to market with a data-management platform (DMP). Called DoubleClick Audience Center (DAC), the product will allow advertisers to create audience segments using their first-party data along with data from third parties. In the wake of Sloane's story, AdExchanger did some calling around, and we've pieced together what DAC’s strengths and weaknesses are likely to be and how quickly Google is bringing it to market. What follows comes from people with direct knowledge of Google's road map, as well as some folks outside the company (including competitors) who have first- and secondhand knowledge. Google has confirmed the existence of the product, but is offering few concrete details as of yet. What is it? DAC performs all the functions of a standard DMP, i.e., it lets marketers bring to bear their CRM database, website audience data and other first-party data in combination with data from third parties. These data sets can then be used to build audience segments, and to push those segments into campaigns that run across supply sources. What's the differentiator? This is an easy one. For existing DoubleClick clients, the big value proposition is the promise of a DMP that's natively integrated with Google's DSP DoubleClick Bid Manager and its ad management product, DoubleClick for Advertisers. That tight integration comes with benefits such as smoother workflow, quicker activation of data segments and closed-loop analytics. Additionally, DAC appears to perform well with third-party data overlays. Is it a standalone product? This is a big question. Is Google only launching a DMP so that marketers already invested in its DoubleClick suite can manage audiences in the same hub? Or will it plug into outside platforms? A source with direct knowledge of the product says DAC will absolutely function as a standalone capable of plugging into outside DSPs such as MediaMath, Turn or DataXu. Two others aren't so sure. They believe, based on early accounts, that the primary early use case is for the existing DoubleClick customer. "My take is it's less of a pure DMP play and more of a connecting the pipes both internally and externally," said one senior executive at a DSP company. What are the weak points? The key vulnerability for Google is that marketers and agencies may balk at the prospect of uploading their precious customer data to Google's platform. It's the same issue Facebook faces as it aims to position Atlas as a cross-device audience management platform. From a features standpoint, DAC may have a shortcoming when it comes to granular analytics, such as tracking consumer journeys and attributing conversions. DAC is not providing that functionality out of the gate. (Google acquired attribution platform Adometry last year, but the technology has been housed within Google Analytics, not DoubleClick. More granular conversion attribution in DoubleClick may be on the way.) Finally, DAC's segment-building capabilities appear to be relatively rudimentary, according to a source. At what stage is Google with the rollout of DAC? While officially still in a private beta, Google appears to be ramping up sales quickly. A senior source at a major DMP says many of his customers have been pitched in recent weeks. What took so long? Google has talked internally about launching a DMP for close to six years, but has held back for various reasons. Its biggest concern and hesitation has been around user privacy, since a DMP by its nature mingles a range of consumer information. The flip side of that privacy coin is regulation. US and European regulators keep a close eye on Google's moves. According to one person, the absence of a DMP was more strongly felt after Google unveiled its full-stack offering – Doubleclick Digital Marketing – consisting of all its ad tech components for the buy side. But that was three years ago. So, why now? The two biggest factors in the timing appear to be (1) the emergence of Oracle as a strong data-management contender, through the acquisitions of BlueKai and Datalogix in 2014, and (2) the rise of Facebook as a competitor with strong cross-device data tied to user logins. "They're worried about Facebook leaning too far forward and using Atlas as the all-in-one center for controlling data," speculated one source. "Facebook obviously has a stronger audience position out of the gate with its registered users than Google does." Will it support cross-device identity? No word on this yet. One source said that in several early briefings, cross-device functionality was not part of the pitch. (link is external)
  • CDD's executive director Jeff Chester called on regulators representing dozens of nations to address the role that today's data collection complex plays in consumer transactions and services. Speaking at the 2015 annual meeting of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN), Chester said that in order to protect consumes today's regulatory agencies--such as the FTC--must understand how data issues are integrally a part of consumer services, including in the financial, health, and retail marketplace. A modified version of the presentation is attached, minus the videos shown that illustrated the cross-device tracking and Big Data Management Platforms that are just the latest developments in digital targeting of individuals. There were also video presentations on how programmatic advertising works (targeting junk food to kids); the role that measurement plays (continually analyzing how we respond to a range of applications and interactions); and the growing use of neuromarketing (fMRI's, facial coding, etc.) is shaping digital marketing and other communications so that it operates at the subconscious and emotional level of individuals. The "story" the slides tell is that to protect consumers in the 21st Century, consumer regulatory agencies need to address how digital marketing actually operates, which is, of course, through a system that integrates data collection with a range of online advertising applications (to "immerse" users in the interactive content, through social media surveillance, neuromarketing, geo-location, etc.). Consumer agencies should tackle the "path-to-purchase" paradigm, supported by Google and others, that continually targets an individual to influence their purchasing behaviors both online and offline. Digital marketing is really a powerful system designed to promote the influence of brands and products, including through ways designed to change how an individual thinks, feels and acts. We explained that this was a global system, with the same set of marketing and data gathering practices being used in SE Asia, Middle East, Latin America, EU, U.S., etc. So here's a quick run-down of the slides attached, minus the videos. Slide 1: 21st Century Consumer protection must address the role that data collecting and its use play with the marketing and provision of services, including financial and health. Slide 2: Scholars, such as Prof. Frank Pasquale, are raising concerns about the role that complex data analysis plays in decision-making on individuals. They have called for regulators to address how the "Black Box" of algorithms and related predictive analytic tools is used in the marketplace. Slide 3: This slide from Adobe illustrates one of my points, that the “Black Box” reflects deliberately chosen business practices used to target individuals. The so-called “secret sauce” is often visible by examining how the businesses use their data and marketing to sell or promote to consumers. Slide 4: What safeguards are required today. Slide 5: Our work since the early 1990’s to address the role that data plays in the commercial marketplace, including our leading campaign to enact the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 1998. We explained we fought for privacy rules that would protect everyone back in the 1990’s, but the industry opposition then—as today—was too strong to get anything except for children. Slide 6: Explained that the basic business model for online was articulated back in the early 1990’s in the book “One-to-One Future.” At that time, it was about tracking an individual across a single website; today includes omnipresent tracking across devices and applications. The picture on the right is Facebook’s new data center in Sweden, the largest one it has built in the EU. Slide 7: Illustrates the role that online data collection, through lead generation, played in the global financial crisis. Online lead gen used to sell subprime loans in the U.S. Message was there are vast international consequences—to people, families, and nations—with how the online marketing system operates. Slide 8: Our recent FTC complaint on Google’s YouTube Kids unfair and deceptive ad practices that target the youngest children. Slide 9: It’s a global system and an international problem. Slide 10: What’s been created in a commercial surveillance system of individuals, groups, and communities. Slide 11: The path-to-purchase paradigm and need for regulators to understand and address the continual monitoring and targeting of consumers. Slide 12: The role that contemporary “Big Data” practices play in marketing. Slide 13: The mobile device’s critical role in digital marketing, including how quickly it achieved mass use (compared with other media). Slide 14: The complex of data companies, often working closely together, that assembles profiles of an individual. Slide 15: It’s not anonymous. It’s about an individual. Slide 16: To address today’s consumer practices, you need to analyze how both data and digital marketing applications are used. Slide 17: The intent is to understand and “manage” a person’s identity, for commercial (and also political) purposes. Slide 18: Facebook sells itself to advertisers by saying they know the “identity” of the user. Slides: 19-20: A person is sold in real-time, milliseconds, to marketers via so-called programmatic buying (ad exchanges, etc.). Gave example from McDonald’s in Denmark. Slides: 21-23. Features of contemporary digital marketing. Slides 24-25: Companies are engaged in social media surveillance, including through the monitoring and analysis of blogs, posts, etc. They are now social media “command centers” engaging in such practices 24/7. Slides 26-28: Examples of digital marketing of loans to low-income consumers, health products and alcoholic beverages. Slide 29: Real-time data targeting and sells of a user/household coming to TV. Slide 30: Teens require safeguards. Role of junk food companies using digital marketing, despite global youth obesity epidemic. Slide 31: Problems will grow, with Internet of Things, mobile payments, wearable’s, etc. Final Slide: Need to proactively act. Regulators should be concerned that trade deals, such as TPP and TTIP, will restrict their ability to act on the future. PS: FTC Commissioner Julie Brill gave a terrific presentation on these issues, raising many key concerns (attached).
  • Blog

    How YouTube, Big Data and Big Brands Mean Trouble For Kids and Parents

    The motivation for big tech is to mold this generation of youth into super-consumers.

    By Jeff Chester (link is external) / AlterNet (link is external) April 6, 2015 There is a “digital gold rush” underway to cash in on young people’s passion for interactive media. Google and other media (link is external) and ad companies are working to transform kids’ clicks and views into bundles of cash and burgeoning brand loyalty. While TV still dominates a great deal of kids’ media viewing, they are also consuming content (often simultaneously) on mobile devices, tablets, and through streaming or video-on-demand services. In February, Google (link is external) launched its YouTube Kids app for children five and under; Disney acquired leading youth-focused online video producer Maker Studios (link is external) last year in a more than $500 million deal, giving it control of “the largest content network on YouTube”; Viacom’s Cartoon Network (CN) now offers CN’s “Anything,” providing mobile phone-friendly “micro” content and promising to serve a “network of devices giving a network of experiences to a network of fans”; and Amazon, Netflix, and others are sending more “kid targeted” streaming video-on-demand programming. But unlike broadcast and cable TV, where there is at least a handful of FCC regulations that prevent some of the worst practices perfected by advertisers for targeting kids, the online world is mostly a regulatory-free zone when it comes to digital marketing. Advocates and child-health experts fought a long campaign, from the 1970’s to the 1990’s, to ensure that TV didn’t take unfair advantage of how kids relate to advertising—so that shows weren’t simply “program-length commercials” for toys, or that the “host” or star of a program—such as a cartoon character—didn’t also pitch products at the same time. There were also modest limits in how many ads could appear in so-called “kidvid” programming. These rules reflected research on children’s development and their inability to fully comprehend the nature of advertising. The FCC (link is external) policies embraced an important principle: children were to be treated differently than adults when it came to TV advertising. Such safeguards are even more important in the digital era, when sophisticated advertising techniques gather and analyze data on everything an individual does, and incorporate an array of powerful interactive features on mobile devices and PCs that have been designed to get results. Parents and others who care about children should be forewarned: For Google, Facebook, media companies like Nickelodeon, toy companies, and junk food marketers, the Internet is a medium whose primary focus is to help brand advertisers turn young people into fans, “influencers” (to spread the word via social media), and buyers of products. Although children benefit from using educational apps, and have greater access to more diverse entertainment and other content, the motivation really at work is to mold this generation of youth into super-consumers, encouraged to engage in a never-ending buying cycle of goods and services. Children (link is external) are now a key target for Google’s “monetization” strategies, helping the company cash in from the sales of toys, apps, junk food, and other products. (So-called “tweens” in the U.S. alone are said to influence (link is external) some $200 billion a year in spending, including $43 billion of their own money.) With Google’s overall revenue growth slowing, with Facebook aggressively seeking to displace it as the global digital advertising leader, and with consumers flocking to mobile phones (instead of PCs) to view videos and use apps, kids—which were one of the only consumer groups not formally targeted by Google until now—are viewed as an essential new market to conquer. In February, Google unveiled a new advertiser-supported “YouTube Kids” app, its first “product built from the ground up with little ones in mind.” Google’s YouTube Kids “product manager” claimed that “the app makes it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore.” Google also promised that ads “that aren’t kid-appropriate don’t surface.” But Google’s YouTube Kids (link is external) is filled with ads disguised as programming and product pitches that violate rules that broadcast and cable TV channels have to follow. A coalition of consumer, privacy, and children’s advocacy groups urged the FTC to investigate Google’s new YouTube Kids app, as well as how the company targets older children on YouTube itself. (Six (link is external) of YouTube’s leading channels are “aimed at children.”) Google wants to place even the youngest kids inside its powerful marketing apparatus, making sure they will help the company generate much-needed profits as they grew older. It is encouraging brands to take advantage of how young people are engaging in a “multi-screen experience,” including watching video on smart phones, and how YouTube combines the attributes of video service and social networking. Google explains (link is external) that YouTube takes the most powerful medium for connecting with the heart and mind—video—and elevates it from a one-way communication to a two-way experience by inviting brands and consumers alike to connect, curate, create and form community … . On YouTube, brands have the unparalleled opportunity to connect with their most valuable audience and the creative freedom to do so in the most compelling way. The reward for the marketer is a fanbase moved not only emotionally, but also literally, to purchase, comment, share and advocate for that brand. In short, YouTube moves people to choose your brand. As an article on the launch of YouTube Kids explained, “If YouTube can earn the trust of parents and hook (link is external) a new group at an even earlier age, then that’s tapping a whole new market of users that will literally grow up with the service—and use it for a much longer portion of their lives.” While appearing as a distribution service for many programmers, independent and professional, YouTube is a key part of an incredibly sophisticated, elaborate, and highly powerful global marketing apparatus. Google executives recently pledged that they are “listening to brands” and taking “action” to help make YouTube a more effective platform to help accomplish their goals. YouTube: “one of the biggest Big Data projects in the world” YouTube incorporates (link is external) all of Google’s expertise in gathering and analyzing consumer information, so a user, even a young one, can be effectively targeted with marketing. YouTube, it explains, “is one of the biggest Big Data projects in the world.” “At YouTube, data drives the way we make decisions,” including to help its advertisers “get closer to the holy grail of precision targeting.” YouTube, explains the company, has “one of the world’s richest datasets,” which it combines with “Google’s cutting-edge technology” to “transform insights into real-world products.” YouTube continually researches and develops ways to measure and analyze how ads can work more effectively; it identifies “new algorithms and methods for optimizing ads,” “researches new ways for modeling end user behavior,” and more. Its data fuel YouTube’s “recommendation systems,” and the company is now “pushing the boundaries of science and engineering” to make its home page deliver more revenue. It offers its users, including children, “recommended videos” as well as other products that help its advertisers. Through machine learning about us, including analyzing our data, Google plans to further strengthen how it can “introduce users to areas of their interest that many did not realize YouTube had.” YouTube is now working to “build the next generation game-console based TV experience with YouTube video content,” which will deliver “a compelling lean back experience with monetization and e-commerce offerings” (including “pay-per stream” and ad content), as well as through partnerships that “integrate” its content. Generating revenues by attracting and targeting gamers is a key part of YouTube’s marketing-to-youth strategy. It is also positioning YouTube to be a key part of digitally connected “Living Room” devices, including “game consoles, smart TV’s, set-top boxes” to “drive distribution and user engagement.” We “put your brand in their hand” Through its “brand channels”—“a 24/7 broadcast center where customers can watch, share and love your brand”—YouTube helps advertisers like Red Bull and Walmart “energize” its customers. These channels can be specially configured to work well with mobile devices, explains Google, so marketers (link is external) can “put your brand in their hand.” Google also offers a “Custom Brand Channel” on YouTube, “the highest level of brand channel customization,” which incorporates special “interactive applications” designed to promote the “branding” experience more effectively. Last year, as part of its ongoing effort to work more closely with leading advertisers, Google also unveiled its “Partner Select” program, which helps its clients take advantage of its advanced data-targeting platform to run ads on its top-ranked video programming. Google is working to have YouTube play a key role erasing what’s left of the boundaries that have separated advertising and content. Through what it calls “content marketing,” YouTube promises to help its advertisers take advantage of our “shortening attention spans” to positively respond to a brand’s message, explaining that “In a world of shortening attention spans and increasing options, advertising is undergoing a sea change. More and more, ads are becoming content that people choose to watch. … [W]e use the tools and know-how developed by a generation of YouTube content creators to help brands develop ads that will resonate with today’s consumers.” As a leader in using mobile phones to target individuals based on their actual location, Google is also in the forefront of delivering its content on smart phones and similar devices, boasting that “viewing video on smartphones is far less distracted than it is on TV.” YouTube: “Precision Targeting at Scale” To help its advertisers, YouTube provides “precision targeting at scale” thatleverages (link is external) “the sight, sound and motion of video, the most persuasive ad format every evented.” Google claims that its “targeting tools are so precise” marketers “can show your ad to folks around your corner or to anyone around the world.” One can target by age, gender, zip code, language, interest, and can “retarget” someone whose data have been (largely secretly) collected when they were on YouTube or other sites. Google offers advertisers a formidable arsenal of “3rd Party Audience Data” that can incorporate details on one’s finances, buying behavior, and many other personal details. Now reaching one billion people worldwide, YouTube identifies Hispanics, teens, those “hard to reach,” as well as adult men and women as key targets; it notes, for example, that “54% of all teens” and “59% of all Hispanics” use it. (Among the “facts” on Hispanics it lists for advertisers is that “76% currently own a pet” and “58% are grocery decision makers in their household.”) YouTube also plays a direct role helping key advertisers achieve their goals, including through its “in-house creative team” (which it calls “The ZOO”) that “can unleash the true power of your message with a custom campaign.” YouTube’s “Brand Nirvana” Promotes Junk Food to Kids Google has been helping Mondelez, Pepsi, and other fast-food marketers push their products—despite concerns about the global obesity epidemic—especially on young people. Last year, Mondelez signed a deal with Google that featured the candy (link is external) and snack company (Oreo, etc.) making a commitment to “accelerate” its investment in online video. The pact involved the use of Google’s advanced data-driven targeting system (known as “programmatic buying”) and the development of more “branded content.” Google and Mondelez are “partnering on content pilots through YouTube’s Brand Partner Program … [to produce] low-cost video content featuring influential digital stars with Sour Patch Kids in the U.S.” Mondelez’s YouTube channel for Oreos features an array of ads dressed up as games, in English and Spanish, which is typical of Google’s use of video to promote junk food products using the full power of its platform. Fast-food companies, including such brands as Coca-Cola, Mars, Mondelez, Wendy’s, and Post cereal, are also using advanced analytics on YouTube viewing to help refine their targeting strategies. Frank Cooper, Pepsi’s chief marketing officer, was a keynote speaker at YouTube’s “Brandcast” 2014 event. In announcing that Pepsi has increased its spending for YouTube services by 50 percent over the last year, Cooper noted that “we live in a world where visual content in the digital space is the new center of gravity for pop culture,” and being on YouTube and related digital applications enables Pepsi (link is external) to be part of a conversation that is “driving culture.” When people share “your content with their friends,” he noted, it is “brand nirvana.” YouTube as Toy Promotion Central Google is positioning YouTube (link is external) to be a central place for children to learn about toys they want their parents or family to buy. As one toy business analyst explained, “It’s a totally new way of advertising. [The YouTube channels] are becoming more and more important.” Although Google’s terms of service (ToS (link is external)) for YouTube requires users to be 13 and older, it’s clear that it is targeting kids—and violating its own policy—in order to profit from the children’s market. Its ToS states that “the Service is not intended for children under 13. If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service. There are lots of other great web sites for you. Talk to your parents about what sites are appropriate for you.” Yet despite its own ToS banning children from signing up, YouTube is clearly targeting kids. For example, “FunToyzCollector (link is external),” which describes itself as “all about kid-friendly videos for toddlers, babies, infants and pre-school children,” recently placed first in views among all the YouTube channels (517.3 million). The channel engages in “unboxing” toys, an increasingly sought after YouTube genre that provides viewers with a “virtual tour” of kids products, such as “Sofia the First Balloon Tea Party 2-in-1 Playset with Disney Frozen Princess Anna Elsa of Arendelle.” Very popular with young kids in the U.S., the YouTube ad-supported channel made its owner an estimated $4.9 million last year. Kids either find or are shown these channels as they search for new toys to buy or to receive as presents. “DisneyCarToys (link is external),” “a fun kid friendly toy channel” produced by Disney subsidiary Maker Studios, is another example of how Google profits by permitting the targeting of children. The channel is one of five toy-related YouTube channels that Disney acquired (link is external) in 2014, including “HobbyKidsTV, ToyReviewToys, AllToyCollector, and TheEngineeringFamily.” These popular “top 40 toy channels worldwide,” which integrate Disney’s characters and brands into the programming content, are now part of Disney’s “merchandising” strategy, which will include more brand tie-ins and advertising. Maker Studios itself has a major kids marketing presence on YouTube. It describes its “Cartoontium (link is external)” set of programs as “the place to find all the best kid’s entertainment on YouTube!” One of its channels is called “Messy Painting in the Dark-Neon Arcade,” where “Toys, games and financial support [is] provided by Hasbro.” Other Cartoonium programming features “classic episodes of Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake.” “Strawberry Shortcake” and other programming include ads for toys (and some of these shows are also on the YouTube Kids app). One reason Disney acquired Maker, explained CEO Bob Iger, was to reap its “great access to data and algorithms,” which are gathered from billions of views collected through its 55,000 YouTube channels. Another kids’ toy–focused YouTube service is also partnering with the Disney/Maker empire. “EvanTubeHD (link is external),” involving two young children (eight and five years old) and their father, “boasts more than a billion views across” three channels. The two children “review and play with the most popular kids toys currently on shelves.” As an analyst explained why toy companies are enthusiastically seeking out relationships with kid reviewers online, “Kids trust other kids more so than they would an adult.” Maker has a broad range of marketing services it offers brands (link is external) and advertisers, including “custom pre-roll” ads (the short spots that run before a YouTube or other video content starts); channel targeting (“integrate your brand message natively into our top performing channels”); and sponsorships (“More than just a logo, our unique custom sponsorships allow you to connect with our forward leaning and deeply engaged audiences”). Maker touts its strong alliance of partners, including its “custom solutions to the world's best brands” and “effective and hyper-targeted media solutions.” Partners include Mattel, Pepsi, Warner Bros, and parent Disney. It also works with the leading ad agencies that represent major global brands “to create unique programs across our programming and talent.” In another example of how Google fails to protect children, it allows Disney to encourage its young viewers to connect to them using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—despite these sites requiring users to be 13 years or older. So eager is Google to reap profits, it appears purposely to ignore how toy companies are establishing nothing more than 24/7 virtual ad channels on YouTube. For example, Spin Master, a “top-five” toy company, has created a “kid centric YouTube channel dubbed SpindoTV (link is external), aimed at children 6-11. Its shows are based on its toy line-up, including “Sick Bricks” and “Beat the Parents” board game. Many of its shows are a part of Google’s new YouTube Kids app. According to a Spin Master executive, “We know from our research that these kids are already on YouTube in massive numbers.” YouTube, of course, is just one method Google uses to help it reach and monetize young people. It is also “building successful apps and games” for its “Google Play for Education and Kids vertical,” helping developers create “commercially viable offerings to educators and students, parents and kids.” The popularity of YouTube among children has triggered a “must-have-the-video-network” buying strategy from companies targeting the youth market worldwide. Marketers researching youth know that kids are using YouTube as a search engine because it includes pictures, videos, and other audio-visual material. It’s also “easy to navigate” for children, with reports that “kids who are into watching TV episodes on YouTube” like to see other episodes and “recommended videos” on the sidebar. More critically, digital market researchers studying children have identified YouTube as providing an important social and creative outlet for tweens, and finding cool YouTube videos to share with others is a form of social capital. … [T]weens most frequently share cool videos when hanging out (in person) with their friends and family. … [W]e call this phenomenon clustersharing. … [I]t speaks more to their desire to physically experience videos with others—to see, to feel and to share that experience, including their thoughts and emotions. The same researchers advise marketers to take advantage of the “clustersharing (link is external)” concept, and encourage ways to “enhance that in-person, social experience. Using ad content (like a group game) or finding a way to alleviate the agonizing “live” wait of a 15-second pre-roll between each video presents “an opportunity to enrich your brand experience with this very engaged audience.” Tracking our “Consumer Journey” Google is in the forefront of digital marketing companies promising to help its clients influence and “measure” what it calls the “customer journey.” It views itself as helping them analyze and place each consumer on a continuous “path-to-purchase (link is external)” cycle, tracking us wherever we go, and using its resources to have us shop “until we drop”—online and off. Among the benefits Google promises its advertisers, for example, is that they will be able to identify and “value” their “best customers,” and “distinguish the whales from the wasted energy.” (“Whales” is a marketing industry term describing a big spender; “waste” is an ad term for a consumer deemed not valuable.) YouTube conducts research (link is external) to document how its advertisers positively impact our “recall” of various brand commercial messages. Google’s DoubleClick division, which uses data to determine the impact of video ads, offers advertisers the latest ways they can “verify” whether a person actually views a video ad on YouTube. To help its largest advertising clients measure how we respond to Google’s interactive marketing services, the company is now working with Nielsen and comScore, two of the leading global companies that assess consumer interaction with ads, including on YouTube. There are other companies also helping marketers analyze YouTube data. For example, Outrigger’s “OpenSlate (link is external)” platform “ingests, analyses and scores more than 220,000 YouTube channels on measures of engagement, consistency, influence, momentum and ad effectiveness.” (It now is up to 250,000 channels.) It “supplements YouTube data on more than 70 million videos with data from social media and proprietary demographic data. Our platform consistently incorporates brand advertising performance data to further develop video and channel level profiles.” Through its information, brand advertisers can identify “the highest-quality inventory on YouTube,” and then target them using a variety of Big Data tactics. (“Inventory,” as used by the online marketing industry, can either refer to individual users or programming content. Kids and teens are seen as highly valuable “inventory.”) Time for Regulatory Action Against Google to Protect Kids Google, as the dominant digital marketing company, has raised numerous concerns about its corporate practices, including from privacy regulators, civil liberties advocates, and competition regulators from around the world. (The company has led an anti-privacy-regulation agenda in both the U.S. and EU, to ensure that the flow of personal data that makes its interactive marketing system run will never end.) Its latest move to better monetize children through YouTube Kids is the first of what will be a succession of profit-generating ventures that help transform kids’ lives into a never-ending commercial. Even Facebook, which expressed interest in targeting children 13 and younger, has not yet directly entered the kids market. Google’s brazen move to cash in on our kids will likely spur Facebook to jettison any reticence to include them on its social network. After all, why should Google gain all the profits from this new, lucrative, and influential audience? Beyond federal and state investigations into Google’s brazen targeting of children on YouTube, what’s needed now are new policies that ensure young people aren’t unfairly treated by digital marketers. This includes rules that don’t leave children and teens vulnerable to digital marketing practices and also better protect their privacy. For example, Google is at the forefront of companies using what is called “immersive” media, to make sure brands—including on YouTube—can “grab” our attention. All of the data gathered from our use of mobile phones, social media, and online video feed so-called “profiles” that are used to target us for advertising—increasingly regardless of location (think of a mobile discount coupon from a nearby fast food outlet appearing on children’s phones as they come out of school) and in real-time (right as you are in the store cereal or toy aisle). These practices are highly questionable when targeting adults, let alone young people. Companies like Google should develop their own policies that actually protect and empower young people—not just turn them into the latest profit center. A global leader like Google, with immense profits, should only be offering kids commercial- (and data targeting-) free content. It shouldn’t be helping junk food and toy companies take advantage of kids to sell them products that don’t promote their development and health. It is doubtful, however, that Google will change course. It is, after all, primarily an advertising company whose allegiance is to the biggest brands and the marketing industry. It’s time for activist shareholders of Google and other companies to press for the adoption of new corporate policies that protect young people in the digital age. Parents will have to decide whether Google’s corporate culture, focused as it is on promoting marketing to young kids, is incompatible with their values and goals. But it will also take a movement of parents, educators, public interest groups, and policymakers to force Google and other kids marketers to act responsibly. If we want to see the next generation grow up without being greatly influenced by the most powerful advertising apparatus yet developed, this is a fight we must join.
  • News

    Child and Consumer Advocates Urge Federal Trade Commission to Investigate and Bring Action Against Google for Excessive and Deceptive Advertising Directed at Children

    So-called “Family-Friendly” YouTube Kids App Combines Commercials and Videos, Violating Long-Standing Safeguards for Protecting Children

    Washington, DC – Tuesday, April 7 – A coalition of prominent children’s and consumer advocacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today requesting an investigation of Google, charging the company with unfair and deceptive practices in connection with its new YouTube Kids app. The complaint (link is external) details a number of the app’s features that take advantage of children’s developmental vulnerabilities and violate long-standing media and advertising safeguards that protect children viewing television. Among the specific practices identified in the complaint are:Intermixing advertising and programming in ways that deceive young children, who, unlike adults, lack the cognitive ability to distinguish between the two;Featuring numerous “branded channels” for McDonald’s, Barbie, Fisher-Price, and other companies, which are little more than program-length commercials;Distributing so-called “user-generated” segments that feature toys, candy, and other products without disclosing the business relationships that many of the producers of these videos have with the manufacturers of the products, a likely violation of the FTC’s Endorsement Guidelines.When it launched the YouTube Kids app in February, Google described it as “the first Google product built from the ground up with little ones in mind.” As the complaint points out, however, the company appears to have ignored not only the scientific research on children’s developmental limitations, but also the well-established system of advertising safeguards that has been in place on both broadcast and cable television for decades. Those important policies include (1) a prohibition against the host of a children’s program from delivering commercial messages; (2) strict time limits on the amount of advertising any children’s program can include; (3) the prohibition of program-length commercials; and (4) the banning of “product placements” or “embedded advertisements.” Such “blending of children’s programming content with advertising material on television,” the group’s complaint declares, “has long been prohibited because it is unfair and deceptive to children. The fact that children are viewing the videos on a tablet or smart phone screen instead of on a television screen does not make it any less unfair and deceptive.” The complaint also charges that Google is violating its own advertising policies for YouTube Kids. For example, while the company promises that food and beverage ads will not appear on the app, advertising and promotions for junk food are prominently featured throughout. “YouTube Kids is the most hyper-commercialized media environment for children I have ever seen,” commented Dale Kunkel, Professor of Communication, University of Arizona. “Many of these advertising tactics are considered illegal on television, and it's sad to see Google trying to get away with using them in digital media.” “There is nothing 'child friendly' about an app that obliterates long-standing principles designed to protect kids from commercialism,” added Josh Golin, Associate Director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “YouTube Kids exploits children’s developmental vulnerabilities by delivering a steady stream of advertising that masquerades as programming. Furthermore, YouTube Kids' advertising policy is incredibly deceptive. To cite just one example, Google claims it doesn't accept food and beverage ads but McDonald's actually has its own channel and the 'content' includes actual Happy Meal commercials.” Angela J. Campbell of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown Law, who serves as counsel to the coalition, called on the FTC to "investigate whether Disney and other marketers are providing secret financial incentives for the creation of videos showing off their products. The FTC’s Endorsement Guides require disclosure of any such relationships so that consumers will not be misled." “In today’s digital era, children deserve effective safeguards that will protect them regardless of the ‘screen’ they use,” explained Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “In addition to ensuring that Google stops its illegal and irresponsible behavior to children on YouTube Kids, new policies will be required to address the growing arsenal of powerful digital marketing and targeting practices that are shaping contemporary children’s media culture – on mobile phones, social media, gaming devices, and online video platforms.” Organizations signing the complaint include: the Center for Digital Democracy, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children Now, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, Consumers Union, Corporate Accountability International, and Public Citizen
  • April 7, 2015 Consumer groups want the FTC to investigate Google over what they consider deceptive advertising toward kids. Click to watch the Video. (link is external) (link is external)
  • By Adam Rubenfire (link is external) March 18, 2015 The cyberattack against Premera Blue Cross disclosed this week affects significantly fewer people than this year's Anthem (link is external) hack, but the value of the information exposed could pose a bigger threat to the insurer. Premera discovered in January that a May 2014 cyberattack breached a system holding 11 million people's records, the company announced on Tuesday. The records exposed may have included clinical and financial records, in addition to personal information like addresses and Social Security numbers. Anthem has said it believes the theft of data on nearly 80 million customers and employees was confined to the latter category. Medical-record theft can be particularly costly for the victims (link is external). A February 2015 report from the Ponemon Institute surveying medical-identity theft victims found that about two-thirds said they had paid money to resolve the theft. Those patients paid an average of $13,500. Patients may be able to seek damages for identity theft that occurs years after the free identity-theft protection the company is offering has ended, said Ken Dort, a partner in the law firm Drinker Biddle who specializes in information technology. The plaintiffs, however, would have to prove that the theft was linked to the Premera hack, which could be difficult. Eric Earling, Premera's vice president of communications, said it's too early to say whether the breach will significantly affect Premera's bottom line. He declined to say whether Premera had a cybersecurity insurance policy. Anthem has said its cybersecurity policy would limit the damage to its financial results (link is external). “We're in a position as a company even before any of this where we're successful as a business and we have strong reserves to provide for our customers,” Earling said. Though Premera is offering customers two years of free credit-monitoring and identity-theft protection, that will do little to protect them against identity thieves who may wait a few years to use or sell the data. Plus, experts say, most credit-monitoring programs don't protect customers against the effects of medical-identity theft, which can be far more harmful. When asked what Premera was doing to protect its members' clinical information from being used fraudulently, a Premera spokesman referred the inquiry to Experian, the company hired to provide credit-monitoring for affected customers. An Experian spokeswoman said the product would track whether an individual's medical-record number or insurance card is used to purchase medical services that go unpaid because that would appear on an individual's credit report. Experian does not track changes in the medical record, and it does not monitor the use of information to make claims for medical services until those services go unpaid. Changes to medical records caused by medical-identity theft can be particularly harmful to patients, Modern Healthcare reported earlier this month (link is external). Fraudulent use can even be lethal if it means allergies or conditions aren't properly noted in the record. Having an individual's personal, clinical and financial information gives identity thieves a more convincing profile, allowing them to engage in what's called “total identity theft,” said Pamela Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a San Diego-based non-for-profit organization. The trifecta of data accessed in this case is the “worst-case scenario," Dixon said. "The people who were exposed in this breach will have to be on guard for at least a decade." The company says that it has no evidence that hackers actually removed data from its systems, only that the systems were breached. But Dixon said there are ways the attackers could have stolen data without a trace and that she wouldn't be surprised if they did given the length of time they had access. Although companies are under pressure to be more proactive about data security (link is external), the number and size of recent breaches suggest it's increasingly likely consumers will have their information exposed at some point. “You now have a situation where to be a reasonable consumer you almost need to sign up with one of the (credit protection) bureaus on a nonstop basis,” Dort said. Follow Adam Rubenfire on Twitter: @arubenfire (link is external) insurer.
  • Blog

    Network Neutrality, Protecting Privacy & placing limits on the power of the "old" &"new" media: Net Freedom

    Jeff Chester on the links between the Network Neutrality and Privacy Bill of Rights issue. Originally posted on Alternet.

    The Internet and our digital media are quietly becoming a pervasive and manipulative interactive surveillance system. Leading U.S. online companies, while claiming to be strong supporters of an open and democratic Internet, are working behind the scenes to ensure that they have unlimited and unchecked power to “shadow” each of us online. They have allied with global advertisers to transform the Internet into a medium whose true ambition is to track, influence and sell, in anever-ending cycle (link is external) [6], their products and political ideas. While Google, Facebook and other digital giants claim to strongly support a “democratic” Internet, their real goal is to use all the “screens” (link is external) [7]we use to empower a highly commercialized and corporatized digital media culture. Last Thursday was widely viewed as a victory for “Internet Freedom” and a blow to a “corporatized” Internet as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) endorsed a historic public utility framework for Network Neutrality (NN). It took the intervention of President Obama last year, who called (link is external) [8] for “the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality,” to dramatically transform the FCC’s plans. Its chairman, Thomas Wheeler, a former cable and telecom lobbyist, had previously been ambivalent about endorsing strong utility-like regulations. But feeling the pressure, especially from the president, he became a “born again” NN champion, leading the agency to endorse (link is external) [9] “strong, sustainable rules to protect the Open Internet.” But the next day, the Obama White House took another approach to Internet Freedom, handing the leading online companies, including Google, Facebook, and their Fortune-type advertising clients, a major political victory. The administration released its long-awaited “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights (link is external) [10]” legislation. The bill enables the most powerful corporations and their trade associations to greatly determine what American privacy rights will be. By giving further control over how data are gathered and used online, the administration basically ceded more clout to a corporate elite that will be able to effectively decide how the Internet and digital applications operate, today and in the near future. How do privacy rules impact the openness of the Internet, and the ability to promote and sustain progressive and alternative perspectives? While much of the public debate on pervasive data mining has focused on the role of the NSA and other intelligence agencies that were exposed by Edward Snowden, there has not been as much discussion on the impact of the commercial data system that is at the core of the Internet today. Google, Facebook, and others use our data as the basis of an ever-expanding global system of commercial surveillance. This information is gathered from our mobile devices, PCs, apps, social networks, and increasingly even TVs—and stored in digital profiles. These far-reaching dossiers—which can be accessed and updated in milliseconds—can include information on our race/ethnicity, financial status, health concerns, location, online behavior, what our children do, whom we communicate with on social media, and much more. The major online companies are continually expanding their commercial data gathering practices. They now merge and use our online and offline data (what we do online and information collected from store loyalty cards, etc.); track us across all the devices we use (PCs, mobile, etc.); and amass even more data about us supplied by a vast network of data broker (link is external) [11] alliances and partnerships (such asFacebook (link is external) [12] with its myriad of data partners, including Acxiom and Epsilon). A U.S. digital data industry “arms race,” with companies vying to own the most complete set of records on every consumer, has also led to a wave [13] of mergers and acquisitions, where companies that have already compiled huge datasets on Americans (and global consumers) being swallowed up by even larger ones. Leading corporations are investing vast sums to harvest and, in their own words, make “actionable” information we now generate nearly 24/7. So-called “Big Data” technologies enable companies to quickly analyze and take advantage of all this information, including understanding how each of us uses online media and mobile phones. A score of “Math Men and Women”-led advertising-technology companies have pioneered the use of super fast computers that track where we are online and, in milliseconds, crunch through lots of our data to decide whether to target us with advertising and marketing (regardless of whether we use a PC or mobile device and, increasingly, using our geolocation information). These machines are used to “auction” us off individually to the highest bidder, so we can be instantly delivered some form of marketing (or even political) message. Increasingly, the largest brands and ad agencies are using all this data and new tactics to sell us junk food, insurance, cars, and political candidates. For example, these anonymous machines can determine whether to offer us a high-interest pay day loan or a lower interest credit card; or an ad from one political group versus another. But it’s not just the ability to harvest data that’s the source of increased corporate clout on the Internet. Our profiles are tied to a system of micro-persuasion, the 21st century updating of traditional “Madison Avenue” advertising tactics that relied on “subliminal” and cultural influence. Today, online ads are constructed by connecting our information to a highly sophisticated digital marketing apparatus. At places like Google’s BrandLab (link is external) [14], AT&T’s Adworks (link is external) [15] Lab, or through research efforts such as Facebook IQ (link is external) [16], leading companies help their well-heeled clients take advantage of the latest insights from neuromarketing (link is external) [17] (to deliberately influence our emotions and subconscious), social media monitoring (link is external) [18], new forms of corporate product placement (link is external) [19], and the most effective ways to use all (link is external) [20] of our digital platforms. The online marketing industry is helping determine the dimensions of our digital world. Much of the Internet and our mobile communications are being purposely developed as a highly commercialized marketplace, where the revenues that help fund content go to a select, and largely ad-supported, few. With Google, Facebook, major advertisers and agencies all working closely together throughout the world to further commercialize our relationship to digital media, and given their ownership over the leading search engines, social networks, online video channels, and how “monetization” of content operates, these forces pose a serious obstacle to a more democratic and diverse online environment. One of the few barriers standing in the way of their digital dominance is the growing public concern (link is external) [21] about our commercial privacy. U.S. companies have largely bitterly opposed proposed privacy legislation—in the U.S. and also in the European Union (link is external) [22] (where data protection, as it is called, is considered a fundamental (link is external) [23] right). Effective regulations for privacy in the U.S. would restore our control of the information that has been collected about us, versus the system now in place that, for the most part, enables companies to freely use it. But under the proposed Obama plan, Google, Facebook and other data-gathering companies would be allowed to determine the rules. Through a scheme the White House calls a “multi-stakeholder” process, industry-dominated meetings—with consumer and privacy groups vastly outnumbered and out-resourced—would develop so-called self-regulatory “codes of conduct” to govern how the U.S. treats data collection and privacy. Codes would be developed to address, for example, how companies can track and use our location information; how they compile dossiers about us based on what we do at the local grocery store and read online; how health data can be collected and used from devices like Fitbit; and more. This process is designed to protect the bottom line of the data companies, which the Obama White House views as important to the economy and job growth. (Stealing other people’s data, in other words, is one of America’s most successful industries). Like similar self-regulatory efforts, stakeholder codes are really designed to sanction existing business practices and enable companies to continue to accumulate and use vast data assets unencumbered. The administration claims that such a stakeholder process can operate more effectively than legislation, operating quickly in “Internet time.” Dominated by industry (link is external) [24] as they are, stakeholder bodies are incapable of doing anything that would adversely impact their own future—which currently depends on the ability to gather and use all our data. The administration’s bill also strips away the power of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which now acts as the leading federal watchdog on privacy. Instead of empowering the FTC to develop national rules that enable individuals to make their own privacy decisions, the bill forces the agency to quickly review (in as little as 90 days) the proposed stakeholder codes—with little effective power to reject them. Companies become largely immune to FTC oversight and enforcement when they agree to abide by the self-regulatory policies their lobbyists basically wrote. In a rare rebuke to the administration, the FTC, (link is external) [25] leading Congressional Democrats (link is external) [26], and the majority of consumer and privacy [27] organizations rejected the White House’s privacy plan. But the administration does not appear to be willing, for now, to change its support for the data companies; and as we know, Silicon Valley and their business allies have strong support in Congress that will prevent any privacy law from passing for now. To see how the online lobby has different views on Internet Freedom, compare, for example the statements of the “Internet Association”—the lobbying trade organization that represents (link is external) [28] Google, Facebook, Amazon and dozens of other major online data-gathering companies—on last week’s two developments. It praised (link is external) [29] the FCC NN decision for creating “strong, enforceable net neutrality rules … banning paid prioritization, blocking, and discrimination online.” But the group rejected (link is external) [30] the Administration’s privacy proposal, as weak as it was, explaining that “today’s wide-ranging legislative proposal outlined by the Commerce Department casts a needlessly imprecise net.” At stake, as the Internet Association knows, is the ability of its members to expand their businesses throughout the world unencumbered. For example, high on the agenda for the Internet Association members (link is external) [31] are new U.S. brokered global trade deals, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which will free our digital giants from having to worry about strong privacy laws abroad. While the NN battle correctly viewed Comcast, Verizon, and other cable and phone giants as major opponents to a more democratic digital media environment, many of the online companies were seen as supporters and allies. But an “open” network free from control of our cable/telco monopolies is just one essential part for a more diverse and public interest-minded online system. Freedom must also prevent powerful interests from determining the very structure of communications in the digital age. Those companies that can collect and most effectively use our information are also gatekeepers and shapers of our Internet Future. The NN victory is only one key step for a public-interest agenda for digital media. We also must place limits on today’s digital media conglomerates, especially their ability to use all our data. The U.S is one of the only “developed” countries that still doesn’t (link is external) [32] have a national law protecting our privacy. For those concerned about the environment, we must also address how U.S. companies are using the Internet to encourage the global (link is external) [33] public to engage in a never-ending consumption spree that has consequences for sustainability and a more equitable future. There is ultimately an alignment of interests between the so-called “old” media of cable and the telephone industry with the “new” online media. They share similar values when it comes to ensuring the media they control brings eyeballs and our bank accounts to serve them and their advertising clients. While progressive and public interest voices today find the Internet accessible for organizing and promoting alternative views, to keep it so will require much more work. Jeffrey Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy ( [34]). Source URL: (link is external) Links: [1] (link is external) [2] (link is external) [3] (link is external) [4] (link is external) [5] (link is external) [6] (link is external) [7] (link is external) [8] (link is external) [9] (link is external) [10] (link is external) [11] (link is external) [12] (link is external) [13] [14] (link is external) [15] (link is external) [16] (link is external) [17] (link is external) [18] (link is external) [19] (link is external) [20] (link is external) [21] (link is external) [22] (link is external) [23] (link is external) [24] (link is external) [25] (link is external) [26] (link is external) [27] [28] (link is external) [29] (link is external) [30] (link is external) [31] (link is external) [32] (link is external) [33] (link is external) [34] [35] (link sends e-mail) on Under the Radar, Big Media Internet Giants Get Massive Access to Everything About You [36] (link is external) [37] (link is external)
  • The letter (attached) was sent today to Pres. Obama. Jeff Chester, CDD's executive director, explained that the Administration's proposal--released last Friday--fails to give consumers the control over their data the President promised. It was signed by: It was signed by: Center for Democracy and Technology Center for Digital Democracy Alvaro Bedoya, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law Common Sense Media Consumer Action Consumer Federation of America Consumers Union Consumer Watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation National Consumers League New America’s Open Technology Institute Public Knowledge Privacy Rights Clearinghouse U.S. PIRG
  • Three years ago, (link is external) President Obama promised that his administration would deliver a “Privacy Bill of Rights” to protect American consumers. The bill released today is a serious setback for privacy. Instead of effective rights that Americans can rely on to protect themselves and their families from the onslaught of online and offline data gathering, the administration proposal perversely reduces the power of the Federal Trade Commission to protect the public. It fails to give the FTC, the country’s key privacy regulator, “rule-making” authority to craft reasonable safeguards,and actually empowers the companies that now harvest our mobile, social, location, financial, and health data, leaving them little to fear from regulators.The legislation creates a huge loophole that practically eviscerates any real privacy protection and consumer control of their data. Its provisions are tied to a standard of both “risk” and “context” that enables a company to determine whether a person’s data require greater privacy control. Since the majority of today’s massive online data gathering is disingenuously considered by industry as “marketing” information—versus what it really is, highly detailed and continually updated profiles merging our online and offline data—very little of a consumer’s data will trigger stronger protections.The multi-stakeholder process at the core of this poorly constructed privacy bill has been flawed from the outset, dominated as it is by industry lobbyists whose real goal is to ensure their companies can continue their practices without any real safeguards. The proceedings have failed so far to generate any meaningful and widely adopted safeguards, and the prospects for a new “code of conduct” that offers genuine consumer protection are unlikely. Public interest and privacy groups are vastly outnumbered in the Department of Commerce-run multi-stakeholder process, which is notable for its lack of diverse representation, denying meaningful participation from civil rights, consumer, and other representatives.The bill limits the FTC’s “unfair trade practices” authority once companies that collect our data adopt a “multi-stakeholder code of conduct.” Once that code is developed, the FTC has at most 90 days (if adopted via a Department of Commerce process) to approve or deny it, giving the agency and the public insufficient time to analyze and address the code’s shortcomings. Hundreds of codes are predicted to be proposed, leaving the FTC at a disadvantage in performing its duty to protect American consumers.The bill also greatly reduces the ability of state attorneys general to protect our privacy precisely at a time when there is an explosion of hyperlocal data mining of our neighborhoods.The legislation also enables companies to create so-called “privacy review boards” that will most likely rubber-stamp their data practices, another example of how corporations have been further empowered to decide what the consumer privacy rules should be. While the bill touts that it provides rights to consumers, it gives real control to the companies that collect our information.Although the president’s Privacy Bill of Rights promised transparency and control, it creates a labyrinth-like process that consumers must navigate before they can actually access and correct their own data records held by companies. Data brokers and others can hide behind a convoluted system to determine whether individuals can access their files.Beyond its undermining FTC authority and empowering industry self-regulation, the process by which the bill was written also reflects poorly on the Administration. As a Commerce official said to advocates one week ago, the bill was deliberately drafted so as not to “disrupt [the commercial data] business—we are the Department of Commerce.” The majority of consumer and privacy advocates were given only a review of the near-final text a week ago today, with just less than 30 minutes to read the bill. Advocates told the White House early this week about some of the problems in the legislation, urging it to postpone slightly the release of the bill and to work with us to improve its consumer protections. But this proposal was rejected. Leading Congressional leaders on privacy issues were also denied access to the bill until yesterday, leaving them no time for meaningful engagement with the White House. Parts of the bill appear to have been drafted by the “Big Data” lobby itself, in order to protect industry’s current data practices, which raise serious questions about the influence the commercial sector has within the Department of Commerce.“Instead of supporting the FTC, the Administration has aided the data collection industry in its efforts to undermine that agency’s role,” explained Jeff Chester, CDD’s executive director. This bill fails to fulfill what the president promised. CDD and other consumer and privacy advocates will work to ensure Americans get the privacy rights they deserve.”
  • Washington, DC: The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), along with U.S. PIRG, Consumer Watchdog, and Public Citizen, called on the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into the impact on the American public of growing consolidation in consumer offline and online data sources and digital marketing applications. The groups also asked for the FTC to hold a public workshop focused on ensuring Americans receive 21st century safeguards protecting their privacy in online transactions, and a truly competitive marketplace.The letter comes after the approval by the Department of Justice of the “Big Data”-driven acquisition by the Oracle Corporation of data broker Datalogix. The merger—announced in late December and approved just three weeks later—would create, in Oracle’s words, “the world’s most valuable data cloud” for digital marketing, connecting and unifying “a consumer’s various identities across all devices, screens and channels.” The deal is the second recent major data broker acquisition by Oracle, which purchased leading online consumer information firm BlueKai last year. The Oracle/Datalogix transaction should have triggered involvement by the FTC, given its expertise on the digital data industry, the groups noted.The letter to FTC Chairwoman Ramirez also underscored that the Oracle/Datalogix merger raised serious privacy and consumer concerns, which required scrutiny by the Bureau of Consumer Protection as well. The combined companies’ datasets include financial, racial, location, and other sensitive data, as well as issues involving the EU/U.S. Safe Harbor agreement and the Google and Facebook Consent Decree settlements. The merger also implicates a number of consumer-protection matters, such as financial marketing and auto sales, where the FTC has a congressional mandate to protect the public.The group’s letter to the FTC (attached below) provides an inside look at the role of consumer data in today’s digital marketplace, in which companies not only amass enormous amounts of information on consumers’ online and offline activities, but exchange that information with partners and affiliates for the purposes of analytical scrutiny and personalized targeting. “This transaction,” the letter explains, “highlights the crosscutting dimensions of the contemporary ‘Big Data’ digital marketplace, where competition and consumer-protection issues are intertwined.”“The American public deserves to know how the consolidation and use of their information affects their daily lives,” the letter concludes, “from the prices they pay and the services they are offered to what this transaction means for their privacy. We urge the FTC to develop a more effective approach to identifying new problems and threats to competition and consumer protection in the Big Data era.”“The Oracle/Datalogix deal reflects the digital data ‘arms race’ underway where companies are amassing powerful and detailed sets of information to track and target a consumer anywhere, anytime,” explained Jeff Chester, CDD’s executive director. “Control over an individual’s information, and the capabilities to use it effectively in today’s Big Data era, are falling into fewer hands. Unfortunately, these critical mergers suffer from ‘premature approval syndrome,’ sanctioned by regulators without adequate analysis and discussion. As the country’s chief regulatory agency protecting privacy and the online consumer marketplace, the FTC needs to show greater leadership by fostering 21st Century safeguards.”“Our letter also urges antitrust authorities to update their market analysis to reflect that digital markets aren’t the same as markets for groceries or steel,” said Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for U.S. PIRG. “21st century markets need a 21st century analysis that takes into account the unique ways that fewer, bigger firms leverage even greater market power over consumer data through partnerships and joint ventures.”“The Oracle/Datalogix deal is an example of how powerful companies are amassing unprecedented amounts of data, distorting traditional markets, limiting competition and consumer control,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “The FTC needs to act quickly and decisively to ensure its regulatory procedures keep pace with the threats of 21st century data-driven markets.”“As evidenced now by Oracle’s acquisition of Datalogix, a handful of Data Titans hope to aggregate personal and private data about everyone, so they know where we go, what we do, whom we see, what we want, what we think and what we say,” said Rob Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The marketers’ intrusion on our privacy is vastly outpacing public protections, or even public awareness. Consumer protection authorities need to take a very hard look at the Oracle deal and industry concentration more generally. There’s no reason for us to be racing toward a dystopian future of total surveillance.”
  • We await to review the text of proposed privacy bills announced today by President Obama. Next month will mark the third (link is external)anniversary of the promise by the White House to release "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights" legislation. The "Bill of Rights" for privacy is supposed to empower an individual to have serious control over how their data is gathered and used. While the "Bill of Rights" incorporates high-minded principles, we fear that at the end of the day legislation will sanction our ever-growing data collection status quo. Today, Americans face a greater loss of their privacy due the unchecked and growing use of commercial (link is external) surveillance (link is external)technologies, which now afflicts us regardless of whatever device (link is external) we use (and with most applications (link is external)). Rather than lead on privacy, U.S. companies are aggressively expanding their sophisticated and pervasive data mining activities on individuals, groups, and communities (link is external). Whether we are online or off, (link is external) our finances, (link is external) geolocation, ethnicity/race (link is external), health (link is external)concerns and much more are secretly gathered and used without meaningful consent--let alone our awareness. A set of invisible practices operate that assess, score and take advantage of all of this online and offline data. So far, the only tangible result of the President's privacy promise has been online data lobbyist-dominated "stakeholder" meetings at the Commerce Department. This process has failed to develop even a modest form of more effective self-regulation, let alone truly provide privacy protection. If the President's bill relies on these flawed stakeholder proceedings to develop privacy safeguards, it will not bring any change and merely allow ubiquitous data collection to further flourish. We also believe that an unannounced but intended audience for today's Administration plan is to remove a serious obstacle for an U.S.EU trade deal, known as TTIP. U.S. data giants see the TTIP (link is external)as a powerful way to expand their market in Europe without having to run afoul of the EU's stronger data protection rules (under the guise of "free flow of data," the TTIP would enable U.S. companies to engage in all sorts of practices without worrying about EU privacy regulators). The TTIP deal also includes a regulatory "poison pill" called "regulatory convergence." Before the FTC or other consumer protection agency could create any new regulation, it would have to be reviewed by a new EU/US council. This would enable corporate lobbyists to have additional opportunities to weaken proposed rules even before they were made public. New regulations would face a new hurdle, having to demonstrate they wouldn't negatively impact corporate trade profits. The EU should not accept as only a promise that the U.S. will protect the privacy of Americans. Even if the Obama bill is a good one, its congressional path ahead is a hard political road, with an uncertain outcome. The EU should be prudent and wait. On data breach, we are wary of preempting more effective state laws--which is high on the data industry's political agenda in 2015. The most promising development may be a commitment by the White House to seek a national bill protecting the privacy of K-12 students. CDD intends to play an active role on this and all the other proposals.
  • In December, CDD urged the FTC to reject the verifiable parental consent mechanism for COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protect Act) proposed by AgeCheq. The comments are attached. Ensuring meaningful parental consent so their child's data can be gathered and used requires a robust and effective system. Parents need to understand precisely what data is collected and by what means; how it is to be used--now and in the future--as well as the business models and online marketing practices that can affect them. CDD and its attorneys at Georgetown Law Center found a range of problems with AgeCheq's submission. The commission should decline approving its parental system for COPPA. Yesterday, the commission announced (link is external)it agreed with CDD and rejected Agecheq's proposal. Eric Null, Staff Attorney at the Institute for Public Representation, Georgetown Law Center, which represented CDD, said that "We are pleased that the FTC followed CDD's recommendation to reject AgeCheq's application for a verifiable parental consent mechanism. This is a true victory for parents and children and sends the message that future applicants must ensure their system meets the COPPA standards."
  • Statement of Jeff Chester, executive director, CDD With personal information on every U.S. individual, their families, community and workplace the "currency" in today's digital economy, the frenzy of dealmaking (link is external)in the databroker business continues as Oracle acquires (link is external)Datalogix (link is external). Through the data (link is external) it gathers on what we buy (link is external), and with its relationship with Facebook (link is external)and other powerful marketers, Datalogix consists of a online treasure trove of data on Americans. The Oracle (link is external) deal announced today follows its recent acquisition (link is external) as well of Bluekai, (link is external) which holds reams (link is external)of information (link is external) on consumers. (link is external) CDD calls on the Federal Trade Commission to closely scrutinize the proposed deal. It must examine the impact on competition and protect the privacy of Americans. Given the FTC's 20-year consent decree with Facebook, and the role that Datalogix plays (link is external) with the social network, it also must review whether the deal requires additional safeguards under that decree. Both Oracle (link is external) and Datalogix (link is external)are members of the EU/US Data Protection Safe Harbor program and the commission must examine how this pending databroker/consumer targeting acquisition impacts that program. The growing consolidation of information on every American and whatever we do--regardless of location, time of day, whether we are online or off--should trigger action, as well as soul searching by both policymakers and the public. Do we want a society where a very powerful few data barons are able to gather and profit from our information without an individual having any ability to protect their privacy? ****** PS: This summary (link is external)via Adexchanger is useful to see the impact and intention of this deal: Datalogix aggregates and provides insights on over $2 trillion in consumer spending from 1,500 data partners across 110 million households to provide purchase-based targeting and drive more sales. Over 650 customers, including 82 of the top 100 US advertisers such as Ford and Kraft, as well as 7 of the top 8 digital media publishers such as Facebook and Twitter use Datalogix to enhance their media. Oracle and Datalogix's Data as a Service cloud solutions will provide marketers and publishers with the richest understanding of consumers across both digital and traditional channels based on what they do, what they say, and what they buy. This will enable leading brands to personalize and measure every customer interaction and maximize the value of their digital marketing. The combination fundamentally transforms marketing automation from executing campaigns to being able to correctly identify consumers, target them accurately with digital campaigns, allow marketers to measure which campaigns and channels are effective, and optimize how they reach consumers and spend their campaign resources. The addition of Datalogix represents a further extension of Oracle's Public Cloud strategy to combine IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and Data as a Service on a common cloud and to transform SaaS business applications and processes by integrating data within these applications. More information can be found at (link is external). Supporting Quotes "The addition of Datalogix to the Oracle Data Cloud will provide data-driven marketers the most valuable targeting and measurement solution available," said Omar Tawakol, group vice president and General Manager of Oracle Data Cloud. "Oracle will now deliver comprehensive consumer profiles based on connected identities that will power personalization across digital, mobile, offline and TV." "Datalogix's mission is to help the leading consumer marketers connect digital media to the offline world, where over 93 percent of consumer spending occurs," said Eric Roza, CEO, Datalogix. "We are thrilled to join Oracle and extend the value Oracle Data Cloud brings to marketers and publishers."