June 29th, 2012

Online Ad Industry Takes Aim at Microsoft in Congressional Hearing

By Michael Learmonth
Advertising Age

The online ad industry tried once again in a hearing Thursday to convince Congress its self-regulation plan is working, even as one of its most important members, Microsoft, has broken ranks.

Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers, testified before the Senate Commerce Committee to give a raft of updated stats on the privacy icon that lets consumers opt out of tracking: a trillion ads with the icon served per month, a million consumer opt-outs since January 2011 and hundreds of companies licensing the icon.

But Mozilla told the committee that industry efforts aren’t going far enough. “The public is increasingly uneasy about the extent to which their online lives are invisibly profiled, analyzed, packaged, sold and reused to personalize advertising, content and services,” said Alex Fowler, chief privacy officer for Mozilla, in comments submitted to the committee.

Microsoft, maker of the world’s most ubiquitous web browser, has thrown the privacy debate into stark relief by announcing that the next version of Internet Explorer will ship the Do Not Track option activated by default, walking away from the consensus that had been reached between the online ad industry and privacy advocates. Microsoft’s move has emboldened privacy advocates seeking to overturn the internet’s status quo, which tracks consumers unless otherwise instructed.

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