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Online advertising facing MP probe as part of privacy overhaul

11th Jul 2011
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MPs from all three main UK political parties have signed a Commons motion demanding an "internet bill of rights" and tougher powers for the Information Commissioner to tackle privacy issues related to online advertising.

The move follows WPP’s announcement last month that it was setting up a huge centralised database to hold profiles of the purchasing behaviour of half a billion internet users, which executives reportedly said would cover virtually 100% of the population in the 11 markets in which the firm operates, including the UK, US and Australia.

The 13 MPs involved in the Commons motion also criticised Google’s data gathering activity in its Street View project and called for a political debate over whether new data protection controls were required to curb potential privacy abuses in the world of online behavioural advertising.

"Secret monitoring of internet users is already a huge issue, with data scraping and cookies monitoring people without their consent," they warned.

Karen Fraser, director at advertising think tank Credos, agreed that the issue was one that needed to be explored. She told Campaign magazine: "People see the value in more relevant – and possibly fewer – ads but are setting the same privacy boundaries online as in ‘real’ life. If advertising is seen to be breaking those boundaries – interrupting conversations or reading another person’s diary – there is a very real risk of alienating people."

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