Please Note: Blog posts are not selected, edited or screened by Seeking Alpha editors.

Behavioural Targeting on the Internet - Does the C.I.A have a vested interest?

Behavioral targeting? For advertising purposes? Have a strong clause that clearly bans all use of it for any political issues and it may just be acceptable.

This (above), is my last line message (and a plea), within my InstaBlog [Behavioral Targeting - a concern for Govt's of the world?] - But not a word relating to the strong need to address my concern from those who advocate the merit in "BT" and from what is an obvious win-win-win possibility. - Concerns that certainly do include the very consumers (all, individual users on the web), being the center of attention and or, (who are) the ..... 'bone of contention'.

Now, not for a moment do I profess to be technologically qualified to understand anywhere near the strong progress made in the field of data collection and the storage of such (on web users) but from what I have managed to read, it's so obviously clear that both 'fields' have gone ahead in leaps and bounds., the voice of the 'industry' and a 'cheer-squad' site (that had sadly chosen not to publish one of my own comments (and, of reasonable thought), via moderation .......  (so much for what surely should be a friendly, and 'open' discussion? What have we to hide?) has now come out (April, 16th) with a Law Firm's answer to a complaint filed with the FTC. I feel it's one that clearly 'pours cold water' on the concerns of the privacy group, in a reply that asks a lot of questions that still remain unanswered.

[Targeting Real-Time Targeting: Privacy Groups File Overreaching Suit With The FTC Against Real-Time Behavioral Advertising]

< On April 8, 2010, three privacy groups jointly filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) alleging that certain online profiling and targeting practices – including real-time auctions of individual ad impressions – constitute unfair and deceptive business practices.>

< The complaint also sets forth several additional issues that had not been previously raised to the FTC.  For example, the groups strangely allege that housing the data in a “cloud” heightens security risks.  This seems like a purely Luddite perspective – does housing data in one server really provide greater data protection than spreading data across numerous servers?  Not surprisingly, the groups don’t supply any support for their assertion.

The complaint also emphasizes that more companies are combining online behavioral data with data residing in databases (like those of Nielsen and Experian) of the physical world.  They allege that an advertiser’s compilation, generation, and sale of more information on a given user compromise that user’s privacy. 

They also highlight the fact that the ad exchange system that originated in the online world has migrated to the mobile space, making targeted advertising nearly ubiquitous, as if to say that it breaks some natural law prohibiting the matching of offline, online, and mobile data.  We understand that compiling increasing quantities of data means that the holders of that data know more about you, but is that really a detriment to the consumer? >

Advertiser's spend, on the Internet is (already) an estimated $60 - $65 billion annual Global industry and is said will grow (in part) by upwards of 20% this financial year.

Many billions have been spent by the big Intenet media Co's (Globally) positioning themselves for an online marketplace that will not only get to revolutionise (I feel), the entire world of advertising (& in all forms, having an estimated $650 billion annually), but I truly believe that it will lead the newspaper industry back to 'full health' once again, and on the web.

Behavioural targeting of 'users' is a very contentious issue at the moment. Where Internet users are followed across the web (and can be identified down at each IP address - computer level) and are 'served' with advertising related to their own habits, content likes and most often from their search patterns. Combined with a wealth of other information (gathered from both off-line and online), that can even involve individual cheque butt record of 'his or, her' historical spending habits.

[BUT ... What if "content" was (or, happened to be) then 'served' to individual users, on the same basis?]

Read on...

I wrote of my fears [See my 2nd paragraph Link, above], and mentioned that concern is that (even, a CIA?) "next step" is where politics can so easily enter (& 'act') where it is able to "cross" with much of the information gained, that includes the use of (or, acting on) an IP address of any visitor's [or, all user's] computer.

This then spells nothing but "trouble" and with a Capital "C".

Of a kind (I wrote), that would make The Dismissal of the Whitlam Govt here in Australia look a lot like the election of office-bearers in your local kindergarten for children. I had given my initial reason in ["The Internet needs to be free" - U.S Ambassador to Australia, Mr Jeff Bleich]

From within a couple of my InstaBlog posts on SeekingAlpha [Tiger Wood's loss (Accenture) may prove a gain for Looksmart?], and [Looksmart up in the "cloud" with Cisco's new, exciting Unified Computing System?] I had suggested (& have shown) that my Co of investment Looksmart was getting a whole lot closer to (both) Co's, like Accenture and Cisco.

The question for me remains, does Looksmart's global scale of it's AdCenter (already), and with it's own direct access to information such as the IP address of a visitor [or, user's] computer (and when combined with the Cisco "Unified Computing System"), raised even more questions? And not just a regular one (between advertisers and publishers) of, 'who owns the data' but more-like ....

Just "WHO does own the Data"? (One for the AdExchanger Lawyers to answer I guess?)

And, is the Looksmart 'deal' with Cisco the housing of data in a ('one-stop-shop') "cloud" (as mentioned in the AdExchanger article, and with all information now, rather than being spread across numerous servers), become that 'ultimate' answer to a discussed CIA problem had (see below) as far back, as 2002?

[This possibly is one of those 'numerous' data storages as talked of, over here in Australia -]

From within the (Tiger Woods - Accenture) InstaBlog Link, I wrote (and being an online Japanese/English interpetation of a seemingly Looksmart partner Rakuten deal, with an Accenture/Cisco installation, in Japan):

(howz this for a translation?) "The deployment of the UCS, Intel and Accenture, BMC, EMC, Microsoft, VMware, RedHat, SAP, Oracle, Unisys, NetApp, Novel has been involved as a partner and global scale, expand cooperation with the Japanese subsidiary companies in the country do." 

My question is, does all this effectively then give you the (proposed) 'centralizing of all of the U.S's national databases' (and, now read, global perhaps?) and, as is discussed in this link below, with Oracle's multi-billionaire CEO and founder of the Co, Larry Ellison, in an article from 2002?

From  - The New York Times Magazine's article (April 14, 2002) Silicon Valley's Spy Game it's interesting to learn of the following. (As quoted - Linked above.):

<The C.I.A. had just founded an unusual venture-capital firm called In-Q-Tel, and the agency wanted Louie to be the C.E.O. ''The 'Q' stands for the 'Q' factor -- it's named after the character in James Bond,'' says Louie.

In-Q-Tel was the brainchild of George Tenet, the C.I.A. director, who believed that by investing $30 million a year in Internet startups in Silicon Valley, the C.I.A. could encourage the development of cutting-edge technologies that might be useful for national intelligence.>

< After the dot-com crash, Silicon Valley, desperate for venture capital, began to depend more and more on the federal government. Then came Sept. 11, and the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security. In-Q-Tel now finds itself just one of several deep-pocketed federally financed investors that are eager to back technological solutions to our new security challenges.

The Bush administration is asking Congress for $38 billion for homeland security, and much of this money will be parceled out among competing federal agencies -- including the Defense Department and the F.B.I. -- which can then use the money either to invest directly in security technologies or to follow In-Q-Tel's model of providing venture capital to young companies in the private sector.

Like the C.I.A., the Office of Homeland Security has concluded that the same technologies that were useful before Sept. 11 for tracking, profiling and targeting potential customers can be turned today on potential terrorists.>

< That old familiar gold-rush feeling was in the air at the Riviera: one speaker estimated that federal spending on security technologies would grow by 30 percent a year, rising to $62 billion by 2006.>

< In Las Vegas, several companies predicted that profiling techniques that are now used to detect credit-card fraud could soon be used to detect potential terrorists.

A few weeks later, this prediction turned out to be a reality, when The Washington Post reported that the federal aviation authorities and two technology companies called Accenture and HNC Software are planning to test at airports a profiling system designed to analyze each passenger's living arrangements, travel and real-estate history, along with a great deal of demographic, financial and other personal information.

Using data-mining and predictive software, the government then plans to assign each passenger a ''threat index'' based on his or her resemblance to a terrorist profile. Passengers with high threat indexes will be flagged as medium or high risks and will be taken aside for special searches and questioning.

.....Our system. "will check your associates," Brett Ogilvie of Accenture told Business Week. "it will ask if you have made international phone calls to Afghanistan, taken flying lessons or, purchased 1000 pounds of fertiliser". The only problem: in order for the system to obtain answers to those questions, the nation's privacy laws will need to be relaxed. Federal laws currently restrict the personally identifiable information that the government can demand from credit-card and phone companies except as part of a specific investigation.>

< After Sept. 11, the consensus in the valley is that the national-security ''killer app'' will allow government agencies to access and share information about Americans [read, world - users on the internet] that is currently stored in different databases -- from your chat-room gossip to your shopping history to your parking tickets, and perhaps even the payment history for your child-support checks.>

[Note that in the interest of combating terrorism "key-words" are said to already be scanned ('filtered') in all E Mails and that telephone conversations (like-wise), in the U.S. the U/K. and over here in Australia]

< "Today, every federal intelligence and law-enforcement agency and all manner of state and local bodies maintain their own separate databases on suspected criminals,'' Larry Ellison, the founder and C.E.O. of Oracle Corporation , wrote in The Wall Street Journal last October. ''Do we need more databases? No, just the opposite. The biggest problem today is that we have too many. The single thing we could do to make life tougher for terrorists would be to ensure that all the information in myriad government databases was integrated into a single national file." >

< Oracle's office in Reston, Va., is near the headquarters of the C.I.A., which is appropriate enough: when Larry Ellison founded the company 25 years ago, his first client was the C.I.A., to whom he sold a program called Oracle, the world's first ''relational'' database. ........ Ellison saw the commercial potential of the relational database and began marketing it in 1979. By the height of the dot-com boom in 2000, Ellison's net worth had soared to $80 billion, making him (briefly) the richest person in the world.>

< When I visited Oracle in January, the security guard in the lobby gave me a high-tech ID badge that could track where I was in the building at all times. I was ushered upstairs to a bright conference room where seven people were sitting around a huge oval table.

One of them, David Carey, turned out to be the former No. 3 man at the C.I.A.; he had just retired as executive director after 32 years with the agency. Carey joined Oracle to head its new Information Assurance Center, which was founded in November to design homeland-security and disaster-recovery solutions and market them to the federal government.

Like his colleagues, Carey was in an expansive mood. He said that the United States government accounted for 23 percent of Oracle's multibillion-dollar licensing revenue last year and that he expected the federal side of the business to improve after Sept. 11. > 

< Jones punched a key and a digital map of New York City appeared on the screen. Using a combination of 7,500 digital photographs and architectural plans of more than 6,000 miles of underground pipes, Oracle has created a detailed map of every building, sewer and water line and curb in the city. By the evening of Sept. 11, Jones was ready to monitor every emergency-room bed in the state.

Oracle is now working with the federal government to apply the same surveillance system to hospitals throughout the country. The system would allow hospitals to report incidents of suspicious diseases like anthrax, smallpox and Ebola to a central database.>

< "At one corner is privacy, at one corner is assurance of security -- how safe is the data -- and at another corner is usability. It's all a matter of trade-offs. What we focus on is making the Dorito here, and putting you in any corner that you feel comfortable with. On Sept. 12, most Americans would say, Privacy out the window; go catch the folks. So we would have moved it all the way to usability. But maybe day to day, we move it a little bit more toward security."

As the databases are consolidated, I asked, who should decide the proper balance between privacy and access? How do you avoid a situation in which someone could be kept off a plane because he had skipped jury duty or had an overdue parking ticket? A hush fell over the room, and people looked awkwardly at their sandwiches.>

< ......"The Oracle database is used to keep track of basically everything,'' he said. ''The information about your banks, your checking balance, your savings balance is stored in an Oracle database. Your airline reservation is stored in an Oracle database. What books you bought on Amazon is stored in an Oracle database. Your profile on Yahoo is stored in an Oracle database.''

Much of the information in these separate commercial databases is also centralized in large databases maintained by credit-card companies like TRW to detect fraud and to decide whether customers should get credit at the mall.

When it comes to government data, by contrast, there are hundreds of separate, disconnected databases. ''The huge problem is the fragmented data,'' he said. ''We knew Mohamed Atta was wanted. It's just that we didn't check the right database when he came into the country.'' Ellison wants to consolidate the hundreds of separate state and federal databases into a single Oracle database, using the centralized credit-card databases as a model.

''We already have this large centralized database to keep track of where you work, how much you earn, where your kids go to school, were you late on your last mortgage payment, when's the last time you got a raise,'' he said. ''Well, my God, there are hundreds of places we have to look to see if you're a security risk.'' He dismissed the risks of privacy violations:

"I really don't understand. Central databases already exist. Privacy is already gone.">

< Ellison dismissed the suggestion.

"Everyone's got this amorphous idea that the government will somehow misuse this
,'' he said, ''but no one has given me a substantive example of what will happen that's bad."  [HMMm? Read my lips?]

I tried again. What about the centralized storage of health information, as Oracle was proposing to do with the Leaders system. Would Ellison want government officials to have access to personally identifiable genetic information? >

< I tried one more question. Were there no differences between Oracle and the United States government, I asked, that should make us hesitate before centralizing all of our national databases using Oracle as a model?

"From the information-science standpoint, there's no difference at all,'' he replied. '"These central databases are cheaper and better and they solve all these problems. We can manage credit risks that way. We should be managing security risks in exactly the same way."

It's not surprising, of course, that Larry Ellison sincerely believes that what's good for Oracle is good for America.>


Then there's Facebook (with 400 million global members)

Facebook - the CIA conspiracy (The 'link' is, with In-Q-Tel)

Bear in mind that Facebook are almost definite Looksmart AdCenter partners.

Security of all data is of the utmost importance at all times. Especially when it's of the"shared data" kind and that of most all users, on the internet.

Australia's Four Corners (last night) revealed evidence [ABC fingers China over cyber attacks‎ ] of a lot more cyber attacks when it 'aired an investigation in which it claimed that the IT systems of Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton & Fortescue Metals were all hacked in attacks originating in China'. [Watch the video - 'Chinese Whispers']

I've no concerns of sharing data when it comes to anything (whatsoever), to do with the 'war on terror'.

My concern is the possibility of any further "misuse" of this same data, whether being used directly or, indirectly as an influence over the democratic election process, within any democracy around the world.


ps; Added Jan, 12th 2012 - Accenture Interactive’s View On Advertising ...And... The CMO ..... With Global MD Hartman

Disclosure: Long LOOK and happy to be so