Online Advertising. Privacy Issues

Subject: Entertainment & Media
Pages: 8
Words: 2406
Reading time:
10 min
Study level: Master


The question of privacy in advertising is one of the most complex and controversial one. Recent years, the Internet and Information technologies have changed the understanding of privacy in advertising and protection of personal data in the workplace. Recent years, researchers and media reported increasing number of privacy violations as a result of innovative technologies and unfair practices of advertisers who try to gain total control over personal lives of their subordinates. Another approach to securing complex networks is to develop security agents continually testing computers for the presence of potential antigens–like the (unproven) theory of immune surveillance, according to which immune cells detect and destroy emerging principles.


The literature can be divided into two layers: those researchers who criticize lack of privacy in advertising and analyze its negative impact on the society, and the research studies aimed to advice and protect both the public and advertisers from violation of their rights and freedoms. Cannon (2008), Clow and Baack (2002) and Lance and Woll (2006) underline that many advertisers violate privacy rights of their customers collecting personal data and monitoring their performance during website access.

According to statistical results, 30 million users in the United States are monitored by the online companies. In legal contexts the term “privacy” is sometimes used in a broader sense than that of direct entitlements. For instance, legal rules protecting the interests of children or the mentally ill are often presented as concerning the “rights” of such persons even if the latter cannot personally claim the observance of these rights.

Chitty et al (2006) and Mutanen (2007) state that technology and the Internet have changed patterns of communication and privacy concerns. The impact of technology implies that communication technology not only has an impact on people, but transcends all activities. Although the technological impact perspective provides insights into the determining aspects of technology, the actions of humans in developing, accepting and changing technology have largely been ignored by this group of researchers. These researchers vividly portray that online advertising improves communication process and allows people in different geographical regions communicate at low cost.

In organizations, communication technology is a strategic enabler of one of the most basic tasks within organizations, namely information processing. In this case, it has to be viewed as a unique technological tool for organizations

Wilson (2000) discusses the main principles of advertising laws and their practical application in modern environment. The author states that new technology has a great impact on privacy and security issues. For the development of the self, privacy in communication is a fundamental requirement for the creation of true and lasting relationships. Users thoughts may one day be simulated, or at least stolen, by advanced computers.

It is difficult to look at any segment of the economy and not find new, aggressive violations of individual privacy. Without privacy of communications, there can be no ultimately true relationships. For instance, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 has many loopholes that make users and consumers monitoring possible. The inherent problems with privacy-protecting technology are that it is very difficult to know whether or not the technology is work­ing properly. If privacy is being violated, a user might observe a tell­tale symptom: a user might get junk mail or harassing phone calls.

Wells et al (2006), Thompson (2006), McDonald and Christopher (2003) and Rampell (2007) focus on possible threats and weaknesses of privacy violations. These researchers state that among business practices, advertising is unique for the amount and variety of attention it receives. There is increasing interest nowadays not only in the quantity of advertising messages produced but also in the qualitative differences between advertising messages.

The lack of market information and of competition that would prevail in the absence of advertising would be costly to consumers: as some sellers offering bargains failed to attract buyers, others would find it possible to exploit a degree of monopoly power.

Hence, the choice again is not whether advertising is perfect but whether the benefits of advertising outweigh the costs, so that the social welfare is greater. Whereas the words “wish” and “desire” refer first of all to subjective feelings, the words “need” and “interest” represent steps in the direction of objectivity and legitimacy. The matter is a little complicated because the word “interest” is employed in different ways. It may simply refer to what is objectively valuable without any connotation of legitimacy. In that case the expression “to the interest of” can often be replaced by “to the advantage of.”

Kitchen *1999) state that a concept of display rules can help advertisers to appeal to global target audience. It consists of cultural rules that govern proper and improper ways to express emotion. In effect, these may alter or inhibit the direct expression of emotion in order to conform to the expectations of a social situation. Even though such emotional communications (altered by display rules) may involve facial expressions or gestures, Buck has included them within the category of symbolic communications, since such alterations are intentional (Schultz & Kitchen 2001). Differences between spontaneous and symbolic communication result in part from differences in their neural basis.

These, two forms of communication did not evolve simultaneously. The meanings conveyed by the spontaneous communication of emotion are immediately accepted and understood, whereas the symbolic, intentional communication of emotion is evaluated through further cognitive interpretation and judgment. In order to reach global consumers, art directors and copywriters should take into account cultural preferences, global mass culture and impact on country of origin. Researchers state that privacy requires special protection by society because they represent indispensable conditions for an existence worthy of a human being. The general notion of privacy does not impede society from curtailing or even abolishing particular rights with a view to the promotion of overriding interests, often designated as belonging to “the general interest” or “the common good.”

However, when interests are presented as privacy issues the use of this terminology implies that they cannot be simply discarded for the sake of overriding interests. Privacy is meant to be of a higher rank than rights not so named, and the purpose of this higher rank is to ensure that the social system serves those basic privacy interests which are indispensable for a life of human dignity.

Researchers (Kitchen 1999; Labarbera et al 1999) underline that the right to privacy does not involve, as some have argued, the control that a user has over information about herself. Rather, the relationship that exists between the persons involved also plays a crucial role. On one traditional view, the relationship that exists is that of an agent-principal. The user is the agent of the advertisers and as such must comply with any legal request of the advertiser. On this view the only right that users and consumers can claim is the right to quit her job. At the same time, the users and consumers has the obligations of obedience, loyalty, and confidentiality.

In contrast to other researchers, Kitchen (1999) and Labarbera et al (1999) underline that relationships between advertisers and users are stipulated by contracts and other written agreements. Usually, the contract presupposes the existence of a legal framework which must conform to the requirements of that legal system. In particular, obedience to tax, social security, equal opportunity, and health and safety laws would require an advertiser to collect and store certain information about all users and consumers.

Providing that this information is used only in the proper legal manner, an advertiser coming to know consumers’ age, number of dependents, sex, race, social security number, and so on would not violate the users and consumers privacy. There is much other information that an advertiser can come to know about users and consumers s without violating privacy.

Cannon (2008), Clow and Baack (2002) single out the main principles of privacy in advertising. They include:

  1. purpose of collection personal information,
  2. source of personal information,
  3. collection of information (consumers should be aware of the data collection),
  4. manner of collection,
  5. storage and security of collected data,
  6. access and accuracy,
  7. necessary corrections in information,
  8. personal information not to be kept for longer than necessary,
  9. limits on use and disclosure,
  10. unique identifiers.

Following Cannon (2008), Clow and Baack (2002an advertiser can require information about educational background, and other information relevant to the purchasing decision. However, this relevancy test should be taken seriously. This information is irrelevant for deciding whether or not the consumers are capable of fulfilling her part of the employment contract.

Cannon (2008), Clow and Baack (2002), Watching while you surf. (2008), Google Inc 2008 (2008) underl8ine the problem of information sharing in advertising. Advertisers routinely disclose information about their users to other companies, unions, law-enforcement agencies and various other government agencies, banks and creditors, insurance companies, and private individuals (Busse, 2004). Some of these disclosures may be legally mandated or in compliance with the advertizer’s own desires. Although most of the information disclosed by advertizers is job-related, some disclosures may reveal aspects of the consumers ‘s personal life, such as sexual orientation, political associations, or family problems.

For example, social security numbers given to comply with legal requirements should not be used as users and consumers identification numbers. The information an advertiser collects about a user is not a commodity that can be exchanged, sold, or released in the marketplace. In short, there is a prohibition against the release of any information about an user to a third party without the users’ explicit consent.

Another problem identified by the theoretical literature is monitoring. Stephan (2008), Noguchi (2004), Timesonline (2008), Behavioral Internet Advertising (2008) vividly portray that In spite of strict legal regulations and control of users and consumers privacy rights, many companies use monitoring as a main tool to control behavior of users and performance Computer, telephone and video monitoring are the most popular control methods in the workplace.

US firms involved in computer monitoring include American Express, AT&T, and information industries like banking, insurance, and credit. Monitoring of workers in the United States usually involves recording individual computer operator keystrokes, ostensibly designed to increase productivity, or listening in on telephone operators, supposedly to promote courtesy and efficiency. Despite of advantages mentioned above, these procedures violate privacy rights of users and consumers and their dignity. The main problem is that users were not informed about monitoring systems by an advertiser. A special concern of users is e-mail privacy.

The article “Internet Advertising Revenues” analyzes financial outcomes of privacy violations and concludes that advertising companies receive millions of dollars exploiting desires and needs of consumers. Technology proposes great opportunities for communication and interaction but lack of laws and regulations creates a threat for privacy and security. The internet may well be creating a new technical scenario, but the varied and complex social and technological transformations users are experiencing today have roots which can be traced back in time.

People certainly vary in their degree of conditionability as a function of personal characteristics related to the nature of the stimuli involved. In different countries, people are motivated by different factors and cultural images, unique values and religious traditions. In this case, it is crucial for art directors to avoid offensive remarks and religious images which can be negatively perceived by target audience. Decisions concerning the choice of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli are critical to the outcomes of conditioning experiments.

Art directors and copywriters should consider what is probably the most basic mood effect of all: people in a positive mood give more favorable ratings to objects (e.g., a particular brand or ad) than people in a neutral or negative mood. People in a positive mood are sometimes said to “see the world through rose-colored glasses.” However, this phrase also points to the problem that is endemic to classical models of judgment. Brassington & Pettitt (2001) underline that revising the sentences can help many companies to create a unique brand image of the company and appeal to mass consumers. Different straggles should be applied to on-line and off-line advertising.

There is little information available about privacy issues in advertising and laws regulated this industry in Qatar. The articles “Qatar Advertising Spending” (2005), “Qatar $ 62 milling spending” (2004), and “Qatar spending on Advertising witness 2.1% Rise” pay a special attention to opportunities and growth of advertising industry and discuss possible problems caused by violation of privacy and rights of consumers. The authors underlines that companies in Qatar should recognize in particular that privacy issues represent a dynamic concept; they have had a long genesis and are still developing even now..

In the light of the divergent ways in which privacy issues may be given concrete shape, it is no less than a miracle that a high degree of international agreement has been achieved over the past forty years on specific standards encompassing all kinds of applications of the privacy issues idea. This is an achievement of historical importance, even though many of these standards are continuously violated in many parts of the world. The article “New appointment at Qatar advertising and design agency grow” (2005) discuss growth opportunities of advertising in Qatar and new appointments in design industry.


Neither the theoretical possibility of conceiving specific privacy rights in divergent ways nor the practical experience of comprehensive international agreement on specific privacy standards should lead us to the misconception that the privacy idea is a neutral concept. It is a broad and flexible concept, but it is by no means neutral. It has a definite substantive content which, for instance, is incompatible with all authoritarian and discriminatory ideologies. Therefore, choosing privacy issues is essentially a political and ideological choice. Every right implies obligations on the part of others who have the duty to respect or fulfil that right.

Therefore, no rights can exist without corresponding obligations. On the other hand, many obligations exist without corresponding users rights. Since the standards embodied in the second and the third generation of privacy does not confer direct entitlements upon the supposed holders of these rights, the question may be asked whether it is proper to use the term “privacy” here at all. The new phenomenon of electronic storage and transmission of personal data creates entirely novel problems in the field of the protection o privacy. Consequently, specific privacy may be shaped in divergent ways on the basis of different social and technological circumstances and of different moral and cultural standards.


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Chitty, B., Barrker, N., & Shimp, T. 2005, Integrated Marketing Communication – First Pacific Rim Edition. South Melbourne: Thomson Learning.

Clow, K.E. and Baack, D. 2002, Integrated Advertising, Promotion and Marketing Communications, Prentice Hall/Pearson Education: Upper Saddle River, NJ. 2008, Watching while you surf. Web.

Emarketer, 2008. What’s Not to Like About Behavioral Targeting? Web.

Google Inc 2008, Google announces first quarter 2008 results. Web.

Interactive advertising bureau (2008). Internet Advertising Revenues Up 18.2% YOY, $5.8 Billion for Q1 ’08, Second Highest Quarter Ever. Web.

Kitchen, P.J. 1999, Marketing Communications: Principles And Practice, International Thomson Business Press: London.

Labarbera, P.A., Weingard, P., Yorkston, E.A. 1998, Matching the Message to the Mind: Advertising Imagery and Consumer Processing Styles. Journal of Advertising Research, 38 (6), 29-33.

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New appointment at Qatar advertising and design agency grow. 2005. Web.

Noguchi, Y 2004. Online Search Engines Help Lift Cover of Privacy. Web.

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QATAR: SPENDING ON ADVERTISING WITNESSED 2.1% RISE. Strategic Business Information Database. 2004. Web.

Rampell, C 2007. ‘Do Not Track’ Registry Proposed for Web Use: Online Behavior Used to Tailor Ads. Web.

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Timesonline 2008. Google faces landmark lawsuit over sponsored links. Web.

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