The Internet privacy movement appears to be gathering steam and leading to growing paranoia (warranted) among those who have the most to lose: Dozens of venture-backed ad networks and advertising data companies.
What’s going on? Well, certainly the Wall Street Journal series on data privacy didn’t help. This may be the high-profile media piece that tips public opinion toward the privacy advocates, who have been quietly ramping up their assault on the free-and-easy exhange of Internet advertising data.
What should be scaring the Internet marketing companies: The ideas are starting to gain traction in Washington, D.C. Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) recently issued statements that “that the price of consumers’ daily use of the Internet increasingly is surrender of their personal information.”
At the same time, you have other escalating assaults on the Internet advertising marketing machine. Let me name just a few examples:
- Europe is ramping up on Internet privacy, including cracking down on cookies. In fact, the EU has issued on opinion that all behavioral advertising must be opt-in. Why aren’t more people talking about this?
- The U.S. Senate is prepping online privacy legislation!! (Washington Post)
- Facebook’s privacy errors continue to boggle the mind (Christian Science Monitor)
- Other countries aren’t happy with Google’s Street View. South Korea recently seized Google’s computers in an office raid.
- The media is starting to question free-and-easy Internet ad data. This may only be the beginning.
- The solid privacy series in the Wall Street Journal woke a lot of people up to reality. Maybe this will start to tilt public opinion in the direction of more legislation?
This potentially huge development doesn’t seem to be getting that much play. Over the past few years, the venture capital industry has funded hundreds of ad data and ad network companies, all of them based on the premise that ad data would be freely acquired, exchanged and even traded. One such company is Blue Kai, a company I’ve followed on this site, which has their entire business model based on the exchange of anonymous ad data. There are dozens more. What happens to companies like that if powerful privacy legislation is passed?
And then we have even a bigger story: What about Google? Imagine what could happen to Google’s market cap if the legislators initiate sweeping changes to Internet privacy laws.
This story is currently being underreported and underhyped. If you are in the Internet advertising or media industry, you should watch it closely. It could change your life.