Online selling practices debated

April 6, 2011 at 7:49 PM
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CORVALLIS, Ore., April 6 (UPI) -- A U.S. researcher says incidents of illegal access to names and e-mail addresses of millions of Internet users show a need for tighter online regulation.

Nancy King of the College of Business at Oregon State University said this is particularly vital in the expanding role of third-party companies handling pervasive online customer profiles.

In the online world of e-commerce, tracking technologies allow advertisers to construct personal profiles and use them to individually target consumers much more effectively than ever before, she said.

Such profile-driven advertising exploits the consumer's interests and purchases in one area to sell them goods and services from another, something King says most consumers would prefer not to happen.

As this practice increases, King said, third parties such as network advertising associations, the owners of consumer databases and data mining services and advertising exchanges are playing a larger role in the online behavioral advertising industry.

This shift in how consumers are marketed to should feature in discussions of privacy in the European Union, the United States and elsewhere as legislation to cope with e-commerce is drafted, she said.

"A key concern is data-sharing among these third parties and the unlikelihood that consumers are aware of how their data is used by third parties with which they do not directly interact, essentially a failure of transparency," she said.

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