Internet companies and privacy experts will appear before a Congressional subcommittee later on Thursday to discuss the privacy implications of behavioral advertising.
Representatives from Google, Yahoo, and Facebook will appear before two subcommittees of the U.S. House of Representatives' Committee on Energy and Commerce to discuss behavioral advertising, or the practice of tailoring Internet ads to a Web surfer's behavior on a particular Web site. In order to do that, Internet companies have to collect personal data, and members of Congress as well as privacy advocates are interested in hearing more about how that data is being handled.
Such ads have been contentious in the past, and it seems a new session of Congress wants to take a fresh look at the practice.
Yahoo and Google both plan to explain how their privacy policies work with respect to the data collected through behavioral advertising. Yahoo's Anne Toth said Wednesday she will emphasize that the company has introduced a plan (that it said won't be fully complete until 2010) to remove identifying links to personal data after 90 days and has taken steps such as linking one's decision to opt out of this type of ad serving to their Yahoo account, rather than a cookie.
Google will discuss similar measures, also pointing to the benefits of serving relevant ads--rather than random ads--to Web surfers, according to a copy of the prepared testimony submitted by Google's Nicole Wong, deputy general counsel.
But privacy activists such as Princeton University's Ed Felten, who is also the director of the Center for Information Technology Policy, will emphasize how many different parties have access to the data gathered through behavioral advertising, and the technical barriers that those parties can choose to erect around their data if they choose.
The hearing is supposed to begin at 7 a.m. PDT, and six speakers are expected to appear.