EU Parliament Worried About Behavioral Advertising

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Members of the European Parliament have hit out at online behavioral advertising, saying it could be a breach of consumers' privacy rights.

The Parliament's Internal Market Committee approved a report by French member Philippe Juvin that called for "behavioral advertisement" warnings to alert consumers to this new type of advertising. The report highlighted the intrusive techniques used by some advertisers that pose as consumers on Internet forums or abuse data privacy to target individual consumers' interests.

Parliamentarians voiced concern about practices such as geolocation, individual profiling and cookies -- code stored by browsers that often is used for storing user preferences. The rise in social networking has made this type of invasive advertising much more profitable and parliamentarians warn that the current Unfair Commercial Practices Directive of 2005 for combating misleading and aggressive advertising is not equipped to cover such new technologies.

The report calls for clearly readable notifications for consumers alongside the relevant advertisements, along with a window containing a basic explanation of the behavioral advertising practice. It also stresses that consumers must receive clear, accessible and comprehensive information about how their data is collected and used.

Hidden advertising, where advertisers post comments about goods or services in forums can also mislead consumers and potentially damage a company's reputation. TripAdvisor, one of the largest online recommendation sites, has recently come under fire from hotels and restaurants that claim many of its user reviews are defamatory. This week's report wants to see forum moderators who are alert to the threat of hidden advertising.

The Juvin report was approved in committee with 30 votes in favor, one against and two abstentions, and is scheduled for a plenary vote in December.

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