There's been a big dust-up in Britain over the past couple of weeks about targeted advertising. As somebody who thinks that advertising-supported content is a good thing (and yes, I still do at some point intend to do a long and thoughtful post about why I think that), I don't necessarily find all of the arguments against targeted advertising to be persuasive. But I still think they're interesting and worth listening to.
So, here are a few of the better entries in the debate:
A Liberal Democratic politician says, in relation to targeted advertising on MySpace, “I think it's absolutely wrong if you haven't been notified and given the opportunity to opt out.” My take: Notification is definitely a good thing, but opt-out is a very different question. MySpace can only afford to give you a free account because advertisers are willing to give them money to show you advertisements. Why should you be able to say to MySpace, “I want you to give me my free account, but I refuse to help you make the money to pay for that account”? It seems to me that the opt-out option is, “If you don't like MySpace's advertising practices, don't use MySpace.”
I don't know much about the details of this Phorm system, but it's interesting that there's one story praising its privacy-protecting features, another a few days later saying that there isn't enough information to know if it's acceptable privacy-wise or not, and another one saying it's illegal. (More on Phorm.) And Tim Berners-Lee has come out against not only Phorm, but all systems that track online activity in order to provide targeted advertisements.