Not Spying But Targeting, Appropriate Advertising?

Score one for common sense: MPs have today acknowledged what many of us in advertising have been saying for some time – that ad targeting is not the same as infringing privacy.  It’s refreshing to see that an all-party committee of MPs has dismissed the claim that targeted advertising, driven by personal data, is an infringement of consumers privacy.

There’s been a degree of public panic around the use of data in advertising for many years, stoked in no small degree by various sections of the media.  Today’s announcement may end up being looked back on as an important watershed moment for the digital industry in the UK.  To have policy-makers join in the effort to remove the shroud of suspicion and misunderstanding that surrounds the whole notion of ad targeting can only be helpful.

It’s certainly understated, but the key phrase is this: “..we do not think the targeting of appropriate advertising – essential to so many business models – represents the greatest threat to privacy.”  A simple sentiment, but one that can go some way to changing public perceptions of the reality of digital advertising. 

We wholly agree that the importance of ad targeting to a whole raft of business should be borne in mind, but while we’re at it let’s also not forget the relevant, useful experience of the web for the individual user too.  Without data collection and targeting, users would be stuck in the (we think) bad old days where irrelevant, unwelcome and ultimately completely pointless advertising messages dominated the screen.

Let’s be pragmatic – advertising is a fact of life, and the money it generates directly contributes to the high-quality, normally free services that we can all enjoy online.  Who wouldn’t welcome technology that renders that advertising relevant and potentially very helpful? The more that message gets out there, the better.