After reading about how companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo collect information about people online and use it for targeted advertising (behavioral marketing), one New York lawmaker said there ought to be a law against it. He is now working to make that a reality.

The New York Times reports that Assemblyman, Richard L. Brodsky is the sponsor of a New York bill to limit how companies collect data on computer users. If the bill becomes a law, it would make it a crime — punishable by a fine to be determined — for certain Web companies to use personal information about consumers for advertising without their consent.

Brodsky may also be counting on the fact that because it would be extraordinarily difficult for the companies that collect such data to adhere to stricter rules for people in New York alone, they would probably have to adjust their rules everywhere, effectively turning the New York legislation into national law.

If Brodsky’s bill passes, computer users could request that companies like Google, Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft, which routinely keep track of searches and surfing conducted on their own properties, not follow them around. Users would also have to give explicit permission before these companies could link the anonymous searching and surfing data from around the Web to information like their name, address or phone number.

Companies who support the bill include Microsoft who asked Mr. Brodsky to broaden his bill to include all sorts of companies that serve ads around the Web, not just those that show ads based on users’ behavior.

Those who oppose the bill include Mike Zaneis, vice president for public policy for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, an industry group that represents companies like Google and Yahoo who said, “There has really been no harm shown by behavioral targeting or third-party advertising, so this rush to regulate the Internet is really unnecessary.”

Personally, I’d like to see some regulation of the collecting of data online. A good example of this is the recent outcry from Facebook users over their behavioral data collecting and distribution policies. Because public opinion was so negative against them, Facebook changed their policy on the matter.

The collection of behavioral data is nothing new. Marketers have been doing it long before the dawn of the Internet and still do in the offline world. For example, buy a new home and soon after a barrage of telephone and direct mail advertising come flying at you. The Internet needs some regulation because it is so much easier to track behavior through use of cookies, monitoring click-thru activity and the like.

Keep an eye on this one as because as there is no federal legislation on these subjects, Mr. Brodsky’s bill — and, to a lesser extent, the one in Connecticut — could set interesting precedents.

David Wallace

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses.

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