Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

What Privacy Problem? Web Ad Targeter Media6Degrees Raises $17 Million

One way to gauge what’s really going on with privacy and Web advertising: Follow the money. If investors really think privacy problems are going to weigh the industry down, it’s going to be a lot harder to get checks out of them.

So use that context to think about this news: Media6Degrees, a behavioral advertising technology start-up, has raised a $17 million funding round led by Menlo Ventures.

Earlier investors U.S. Venture Partners and Venrock, which had helped the 2-year-old company raise another $12 million before the new B round, are re-upping.

The money is targeted for general expansion, not M&A, says CEO Tom Phillips, who joined the company in 2009 after a three-year stint at Google.

Phillips says his company will end up booking $20 million in revenue in 2010. And he says that by Q4 it had ramped up to a $30 million annual run rate–that is, it will do about $7.5 million in the last three months of the year.

Media6 describes what it does as “Social Targeting,” which sounds as if it’s trying to find links between your various social networks. But the company’s work has nothing to do with your Facebook or Twitter profiles. While it doesn’t like the term “behavioral targeting,” that’s essentially what it’s doing.

In a nutshell, Media6 Web marketers track the surfing behavior of their existing customers, then try to find similar behavior patterns–a matching “social signature”–for other surfers, so they can show them ads.

Depending on your perspective, that’s either creepy or a common-sense strategy to help advertisers spend their money more efficiently. If it does weird you out, you can go ahead and opt out. But Phillips and his company would like you to know that the company never tracks individuals–only their anonymized browsers.

Still don’t want any part of this stuff? In theory, companies like Media6 will be in trouble if lots of surfers really do start opting out of data collection. They can do that by telling individual Web sites and ad networks not to track them–or, more ominously, by using browsers with “do not track” filters built into them.

But we’re a very long way from that kind of change. And the start-up’s investors seem to be betting that it’s never going to come.

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