AOL Wants to Teach Consumers About Ad Tracking

Planned Campaign Comes as Advocates Press FTC to Toughen Web Privacy Measures

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NEW YORK ( -- AOL plans to launch a major consumer educational campaign about behavioral targeting and allow consumers to choose to opt out of such ad targeting.

The opt-out technology was developed by behavioral-targeting company Tacoda, which AOL recently acquired. AOL will extend the technology across its broader network.

What consumers want
Dave Morgan, chairman of Tacoda, said consumers far and away prefer relevant ads but that the online advertising industry, in general, hasn't communicated the benefits of targeted ads. The company will begin to deploy millions of banner ads across AOL's network. "We haven't communicated why they keep getting that ad about mortgage rates or reconnecting with an old classmate or free ringtones," he said.

Today's AOL announcement comes a day before the Federal Trade Commission meets to discuss ad targeting and internet privacy. Separately, a group of privacy advocates plan to call for the creation of a national do-not-track list, which would follow the model of the national Do Not Call Registry.

Mr. Morgan, a critic of such a proposal, said being on such a list flies contrary to an underlying privacy principle -- that data collected for ad-targeting purposes not be made personally identifiable.

Anonymous opt-out process
He argues for more consumer education and AOL's anonymous opt-out process. AOL said it may also license the opt-out technology for use in other consumer privacy protection programs.

"We need to make a better case for it and take it to consumers," he said. "When you ask them what they don't like about online advertising, it's No. 1, clutter, No. 2, irrelevant ads. The best way to solve that is fewer, more relevant ads that are of higher value."
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