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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Voter Privacy Issues: Latest Blue Lithium Offering

Posted by direwolff on August 13, 2007

Today’s announcement of Blue Lithium’s new behavioral ad targeting network may begin to push the boundaries which were once considered sacred in terms of voter privacy. Here‘s the story (free subscription req’d):

BlueLithium Delivers Voters With New Behavioral Ad Network

BLUELITHIUM HAS LAUNCHED A NEW behaviorally targeted ad network, the first service built to help political candidates leverage the Web’s geo-, demo-, and behavioral targeting abilities to advertise their campaigns.

The San Jose-based digital marketing company rolled out its Voter Network today, and politicos can run standard display, rich media, and even video ads, crafting messages with targets as specific as: Women, ages 18-34, living in Seattle, with a household income of $70K+, who are interested in foreign affairs.

So what’s the concern here?  Well, for one, to the extent that Blue Lithium can tell if a user clicked on an ad, they can begin to classify them further in terms of where they sit on the political spectrum based on the candidate whose message they followed.  The opportunity for misuse of the information gathered through this network is also fairly substantial in an area, that unlike companies pushing unwanted offers for commercial gain, can begin to affect our political & social lives in undesired ways.  Imagine such a network in a country where the ruling political party decides to start going after its opponents in nefarious ways.

It will be interesting to see where the privacy advocates will come down on the value or concerns over this offering, but frankly, I think the possibility of abuse is fairly significant and something that Blue Lithium will have to answer to sooner or later.  To me, this raises concerns on par with the DoubleClick/Abacus privacy issues, and more recently the Google/DoubleClick ones.  Certainly a topic for a good debate.

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