March 11th, 2009

Advertisers Get a Trove of Clues in Smartphones

By Stephanie Clifford
The New York Times

The millions of people who use their cellphones daily to play games, download applications and browse the Web may not realize that they have an unseen companion: advertisers that can track their interests, their habits and even their location.

Smartphones, like the iPhone and BlackBerry Curve, are the latest and potentially most extensive way for advertisers to aim ads at certain consumers. Advertisers already tailor ads for small groups of consumers on the Web based on personal information. But cellphones have a much higher potential for personalized advertising, especially when they use applications like Yelp or Urbanspoon with GPS to identify a person’s location, right down to the street corner where they are standing.

Advertisers will pay high rates for the ability to show, for example, ads for a nearby restaurant to someone leaving a Broadway show, especially when coupled with information about the gender, age, finances and interests of the consumer. “It’s potentially a portable, personal spy,” said Jeff Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, who will appear before Federal Trade Commission staff members this month to brief them on privacy and mobile marketing.

Read the full article here.

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