August 31, 2010

Longstanding Practice Becoming A Little More Obtrusive [8:27 am]

Why online shopping is not quite the same as the brick-and-mortar kind: Retargeting Ads Follow Surfers to Other Sites [pdf]

In the digital advertising business, this form of highly personalized marketing is being hailed as the latest breakthrough because it tries to show consumers the right ad at the right time. “The overwhelming response has been positive,” said Aaron Magness, senior director for brand marketing and business development at Zappos, a unit of Amazon.com. The parent company declined to say whether it also uses the ads.

Others, though, find it disturbing. When a recent Advertising Age column noted the phenomenon, several readers chimed in to voice their displeasure.

Bad as it was to be stalked by shoes, Ms. Matlin said that she felt even worse when she was hounded recently by ads for a dieting service she had used online. “They are still following me around, and it makes me feel fat,” she said.

With more consumers queasy about intrusions into their privacy, the technique is raising anew the threat of industry regulation. “Retargeting has helped turn on a light bulb for consumers,” said Jeff Chester, a privacy advocate and executive director of the Washington-based Center for Digital Democracy. “It illustrates that there is a commercial surveillance system in place online that is sweeping in scope and raises privacy and civil liberties issues, too.”

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The First Thing *I* Thought Of When I Heard The Decision [8:23 am]

I also think the challenge to his standing is what’s going to be the decision’s undoing, too. I’m not a fan of Alex Beam, so *I* didn’t give him this lead. I wonder who did — it’s definitely some Cambridge “inside baseball:” The researcher’s revenge [pdf]

If you have been following the latest stem cell brouhaha, you know that a federal judge just threw a monkey wrench into hundreds of million of dollars of ongoing research at MIT, Harvard, and across the country. Press coverage has been remarkably restrained in describing the prime mover behind this litigation, Dr. James Sherley, a researcher at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute in Waltham.

Sherley is portrayed as a “man of faith’’ who is opposed to human embryo stem cell research because the embryo is part of the chain of life. But I have another theory. I think it is quite possible that Sherley is a histrionic, aggrieved, and vengeful man who is striking back — successfully — at the academic biomedical complex that humiliated him just a few years ago.

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