Pubblicità online, i rischi del behavioural targeting

(Radio Passioni) – Behavioural targeting, indirizzamento comportamentale. Si chiama così il marketing su Internet che riesce a indirizzare la comunicazione pubblicitaria in modo molto preciso analizzando il comportamento online del navigatore.

Una tecnica di analisi si basa sulle tracce che i siti Web lasciano sui nostri browser, ma ci sono tecnologie ancora più sottili che comportano uno studio approfondito dei pacchetti che transitano per i server degli internet Service Provider: la "deep packet inspection". Più a fondo si va con l’indirizzamento comportamentale e più questioni si sollevano in relazione alla nostra privacy, al diritto che ciascuno ha di essere lasciato in pace dalla pubblicità e di non dover diffondere informazioni troppo sensibili.
E’ molto bello il contributo che Seetha Kumar ha pubblicato sul BBC Internet blog proprio a proposito di behavioural targeting. La Kumar cita un servizio di deep packet inspection molto controverso in Europa, Phorm, che potrebbe essere sperimentato in Gran Bretagna. La BBC come broadcaster non può utilizzare queste tecniche perché sui suoi siti non vengono pubblicati banner, ma il suo braccio commerciale internazionale BBC Worldwide, che commercializza all’estero i prodotti televisivi della Beeb e gestisce alcuni siti Web tematici, come TopGear,(dedicato al mondo dei motori), si serve delle soluzioni di marketing online di una azienda chiamata Audience Science. Il testo della Kumar è molto esauriente ma sul suo post originale trovate anche tutti i suoi link.

BBC Online and behavioural targeting

Seetha Kumar
Friday, 15 May 2009

I am fortunate in being surrounded by people for whom creative technology is intuitive, exhilarating and extraordinarily vivid. A connected world is the world we help shape.
However for those for whom the internet feels like alien territory, anxieties around issues such as safety, security and privacy can stand in the way of making the most of what the web has to offer.
These concerns are real. Our public service ethos acts as a powerful motivator: we want to provide a safe environment within which people can enjoy our offer.
Recently, there have been a lot of column inches on the use of so-called ‘behavioural targeting’ – the delivery of adverts to audiences based on their internet activity. Phorm’s behavioural targeting service, for instance, has received particularly widespread coverage.
I thought it worth sharing my thoughts. First, a recap on the main ways in which behavioural targeting works.
First-party targeting is where user behaviour is tracked by means of a cookie on a specific website. The data is kept by the website owner (or its contracted company), and targeted ads are served up whilst you’re using the site. In a "network" advertising model a number of sites contract with each other to share the data about user journeys across a specified network of sites. The website’s privacy policy should tell you how to opt out if you do not want your user journey site used in this way.
Of course, UK users are not served up ads on We are a public service offering – funded by the licence fee. However, we do use cookies in order to provide users with a more customised service. But, you as the user are in control – you have the option of setting your device to accept all cookies, to alert you when a cookie is issued or to opt out – i.e. not to receive cookies at any time. If you want to know more, check Section 13 of our Privacy Policy for more information on our use of cookies.
A commercial company cannot provide good free content on the web without relying on advertising revenues. In which case, the better targeted the marketing – the more sales that are generated. I believe thrives by being part of a bigger competitive landscape of amazing content providers – mostly funded by advertising.
Our commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, uses first-party targeting technology on its UK sites – such as – and the international facing, advertising funded website at, through a company called Audience Science. On our Privacy Policy we include a link for international users explaining more about the technology used and how to opt out of it. (You will find it at the top right hand corner of the privacy page). In a nutshell, Audience Science places a cookie that tracks the pages visited by international users of, forms a profile based on that activity, and serves up adverts based on that profile.
Ads can be specifically targeted to users falling within specific "segments" – and there is a user benefit in that. It can also generate revenues that can be reinvested into supporting our public service remit of creating useful propositions for our audiences, as well as new ways of delivering them. Naturally, as a user, you have the choice to opt out.
Then, there is a further type of targeted marketing – ISP based behavioural targeted advertising (such as Phorm) – which is different. Targeted marketing here works by putting their technology into the ISPs networks. They intercept all users’ browsing activity using ‘deep-packet inspection’, putting each user into a ‘bucket’ that broadly and anonymously categorises them, and serves them ads based on which "bucket" they are in. Whilst this enhances the quality of the targeting (as it covers a broader range of sites) it is also more invasive than first-person or network targeting as it collects the user’s entire web activity.
My understanding is that Phorm is not currently deployed on a UK ISP, though it has been trialled. So the jury is still out.
Some principles remain true. They are quite simple – the privacy of our user and the code we follow as a public service broadcaster. This means it is not appropriate for third parties to use the data profiles of the users of BBC services for commercial gain.
Your ISP should always give you the choice of opting into their use of this type of behavioural targeted advertising. This has been laid down by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) last year. As it’s your ISP who decides whether or not to use this type of technology, it is worth knowing that there are steps you can take. In the case of Phorm, in particular, you can also opt out via their website.
Deep packet inspection is a big issue in Europe. So is the allied topic of users being in the driving seat and being able to give informed consent. The European Commission issued an action about a month ago against the UK Government querying whether the law here goes far enough to protect users.
We are watching this space closely and waiting for details of the Government’s response, which is due around mid June.
I am keen to hear your thoughts. There’s more coverage of the subject in the links below if you are after further information.

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