Online profiling is "the practice of tracking information about consumers' interests by monitoring their movements online." A primary purpose of online profiling is to "deliver advertising tailored to the individual's interests," a practice known as online behavioral advertising (OBA). In order to accomplish this, publishers and advertisers track a individual's online behavior using cookies and other means. Publishers and advertisers aggregate the information, often compile it with information from offline sources, and sort individuals into groups based on characteristics such as age, income, and hobbies. Advertisers can then purchase access to these consumer groups, controlling their selections with such specificity that one commentator has compared the process of choosing the most desirable targets to "fishing from a barrel." Part I of this Note presents an overview of the technologies that enable online profiling and the ways in which the online advertising industry uses gathered information to target users. Part II argues that legislation regulating online profiling is necessary because profiling is a harmful practice that users cannot prevent and for which no remedy is available. Part III examines the FTC's recent proposal for a 'do not track' mechanism and proposes elements that future legislation should include in order to allow this mechanism to effectively address some of the concerns online profiling raises.
Tracy A. Steindel,
A Path toward User Control of Online Profiling,
Mich. Telecomm. & Tech. L. Rev.
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mttlr/vol17/iss2/4