Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google Starts Targeting, Too. What Will Congress Do?

rick-boucherBehavioral targeting–serving up ads to Internet users based on the sites they’ve already visited–has been standard practice on the Web for a couple of years, but not at Google. That changed this morning when the search giant rolled out its version of behavioral targeting, which it’s calling “interest-based advertising.”

So who’s the guy on the right, and why am I showing you his picture?

That’s Rick Boucher, a Democratic congressman from Virginia. And I’m pretty sure Google (GOOG) just ensured that you’re going to be seeing and hearing from him with some frequency.

That’s because Boucher, who heads the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, has already drawn a bead on behavioral targeting. Last month, he called on Congress to start regulating the practice rather than allowing Yahoo (YHOO), Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL and everyone else promise to behave themselves.

At the time, Boucher said he didn’t have a timetable drawn up for his proposed online privacy bill. But Google’s announcement today surely means we’ll see it introduced sooner than later.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik