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Technology Today - Call for Ban on Surveillance Advertising

Technology Today

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has released a series of fact sheets about surveillance advertising. Also known as targeted advertising or behavioral advertising, surveillance advertising is the practice of showing individual consumers different advertisements based on inferences about their interests, demographics and other characteristics drawn from tracking their activities over time and space. “Surveillance advertising raises many concerns for consumers, including the potential for discrimination, manipulation, unfair treatment, identity theft, and law enforcement access to personal information,” said Susan Grant, CFA’s Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy.

The fact sheets are intended to help policymakers, advocates and the general public understand how surveillance advertising works, how the tracking is done, how discrimination and other adverse impacts may occur, who really benefits from surveillance advertising, and why contextual advertising is a good alternative.

“It is extremely difficult for consumers to avoid the tracking and profiling that underpins the surveillance advertising ecosystem,” Grant noted. “Because the risks of surveillance advertising outweigh the benefits, CFA and many other consumer, privacy and civil rights groups have called for it to be banned.”

“The failure to establish a legal framework to protect privacy in the United States has given rise to a vast commercial surveillance infrastructure that doesn’t necessarily operate in the best interests of consumers or small businesses,” observed Grant. “It’s crucial to understand this in order to develop policies that will ensure more fair and equitable treatment of our personal information.” 

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