Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Center for Digital Democracy's Jeff Chester Talks About MicroHoo and More!

While in Washington, D.C., BoomTown can’t just visit the policy wonks from Internet companies (such as my Facebook how-do-you-do here), so I hightailed it several hundred feet and directly across Connecticut Avenue NW to visit with Jeff Chester.

For those who don’t know him, Chester is the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group that works to promote privacy and protection online.

In other words, a professional–and much needed–thorn in the side of Facebook, Google (GOOG) and these days, MicroHoo.

That’s because, while advertisers and publishers are supportive of the massive search and online advertising deal between Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO)–which now looks close to being launched–Chester has a more whoa-nelly attitude.

“There are questions that must be answered regarding the collection and sharing of consumer data by the two companies,” said Chester right after the deal was announced. “While the rationale for the deal is to provide some much needed competition to Google (and income for Yahoo), the further consolidation of the global digital advertising system should be a concern to Internet users, privacy advocates, online marketers, and competition regulators.”

Violations of consumer privacy by such unions or by Facebook’s efforts to use data to better deliver online ads or by any of the myriad ways such companies are honing their behavioral targeting skills worries Chester.

Thus, in patented D.C.-style, he hectors government agencies, politicians and the media to look more closely at such practices.

Here is my video interview with him about all this, which is well worth listening to, especially in an era when online powerhouses like Google are learning more and more about you, and not in a good way:

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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