Google’s controversial move today to introduce a global display advertising system, allowing advertisers to target internet users based on their online histories, has once again brought to the fore the issue of internet privacy. This topic was broached in last October’s edition of Prospect, where Peter Bazalgette argues that, if certain simple principles of privacy were respected, the behavioural tracking technology could “unleash extraordinary new growth in online commerce,” as well as improving online experience. He also advises privacy groups to “maintain a sense of balance” when making the case for customer privacy in all circumstances:
Yes, they must pursue their legitimate lobby for privacy and the rights of individuals. They often help stop genuinely dangerous breaches of privacy. But they pay scant regard to how tracking improves our online experience, and more or less ignore how critical behavioural tracking will be to the future economy. Without it, advertising revenues will collapse and with it the media industry. Privacy matters. But privacy groups’ current lack of flexibility is certainly not in the interests of consumers.