The Price We Pay

For being unable to construct a meaningful dialog about privacy: UK advertising-tech fight shows complexity of privacy battle (pdf)

The opposition probably won’t stop Phorm. British officials have affirmed its legality. But the underlying story is a cautionary tale. As marketers try to pinpoint Internet advertising more effectively, Phorm’s experience indicates how deeply privacy perceptions matter.

Phorm and NebuAd have a high bar to acceptance, because their technologies sound intrusive.

Maybe — or maybe they *are* intrusive, even if they are legal in the eyes of UK law (pdf). How would *you* know?

DNA Dataveillance

U.S. to Expand Collection Of Crime Suspects’ DNA (pdf)

The U.S. government will soon begin collecting DNA samples from all citizens arrested in connection with any federal crime and from many immigrants detained by federal authorities, adding genetic identifiers from more than 1 million individuals a year to the swiftly growing federal law enforcement DNA database.

The policy will substantially expand the current practice of routinely collecting DNA samples from only those convicted of federal crimes, and it will build on a growing policy among states to collect DNA from many people who are arrested. Thirteen states do so now and turn their data over to the federal government.

[…] Although fingerprints have long been collected for virtually every arrestee, privacy advocates say the new policy expands the DNA database, run by the FBI, beyond its initial aim of storing information on the perpetrators of violent crimes.

They also worry that people could be detained erroneously and swept into the database without cause, and that DNA samples from those who are never convicted of a crime, because of acquittal or a withdrawal of charges, might nonetheless be permanently retained by the FBI.

“Innocent people don’t belong in a so-called criminal database,” said Tania Simoncelli, science adviser for the American Civil Liberties Union. “We’re crossing a line.”

She said that if the samples are kept, they could one day be analyzed for sensitive information such as diseases and ancestry.

No “could” about it, really. Once the technology becomes cost-effective, you can probably bet on it.

And it’s interesting whose records get a lot of effort, and those that don’t – Record-Keeping Bill Is Criticized As ‘Anemic’ by Watchdog Group (pdf)

Citing “significant deficiencies” in the preservation of e-mail by the White House and federal agencies, House Democrats yesterday introduced legislation to strengthen and modernize electronic record-keeping requirements. But a private watchdog group called the bill inadequate and issued a report describing federal record-keeping as antiquated and chaotic.

It Names Itself

The Smart Money Watches You Watch Videos (pdf)

Knowing exactly how a video becomes popular can be critical to selling advertising associated with it. The audience for video is growing rapidly; in February, U.S. Internet users viewed more than 10 billion online videos, a 66 percent increase over the same month in 2007, according to ComScores Video Metrix service. Advertisers, meanwhile, spent $554 million on online video promotions last year, compared with $398 million in 2006, according to Jupiter Research. Still, many marketers have been reluctant to place big bets on ads paired with video, largely because it has been difficult to measure the ads effectiveness.

“When youre a manager of a brand, the idea of risking a significant amount of money to understand this new social-media world is very challenging,” said Troy Young, chief marketing officer of VideoEgg, an advertising network that places ads on video clips. A video might gain popularity because it was linked to in a blog or incorporated into a social-networking profile and circulated among friends, he said. The tracking tools can help an advertiser figure out whether the video is reaching the desired demographic and, therefore, whether it should buy ad space related to that video.

Online publishers such as CBS Interactive and advertising agencies such as Hill Holliday now use video-tracking services to help plan their ad strategies. Video creators, both amateur and professional, are starting to use these measurement tools to get a better view of which clips are most popular on which Web sites.

A Tricky Line

Consumer preferences or consumer protection? Where do you draw the line? Warning on Storage of Health Records

Under the current system, individuals can request their own health records, but it is often a cumbersome process because information is scattered across several institutions.

As part of a push toward greater individual control of health information, Microsoft and Google have recently begun offering Web-based personal health records. The journal article’s authors describe a new “personalized, health information economy” in which consumers tell physicians, hospitals and other providers what information to send into their personal records, stored by Microsoft or Google. It is the individual who decides with whom to share that information and under what terms.

But Microsoft and Google, the authors note, are not bound by the privacy restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Hipaa, the main law that regulates personal data handling and patient privacy. Hipaa, enacted in 1996, did not anticipate Web-based health records systems like the ones Microsoft and Google now offer.

The authors say that consumer control of personal data under the new, unregulated Web systems could open the door to all kinds of marketing and false advertising from parties eager for valuable patient information.

Despite their warnings, Dr. Mandl and Dr. Kohane are enthusiastic about the potential benefits of Web-based personal health records, including a patient population of better-informed, more personally responsible health consumers.