Penn professor's new book raises questions about digital privacy

Tom Paine

Joseph Turow, a professor and associate dean at Penn's Annenberg School, has a new book out, The Daily You, that is garnering considerable attention (see excerpt from The Atlantic) .

In it, Turow challenges the premise that the Internet would promote individual freedom, and "that the consumer is king in the new media environment", by exploring the extent to which data is being collected about us and how it is being used to target us. Nothing new about that; marketers have been using data to target people for a long time. Historically, though, that was mostly done through loosely grouped demographic data that revealed little about you as an individual. Now, through information collected from individuals' activities on the Web, marketers can discern an intricate pattern of your behaviors and habits and use it to target you (and perhaps manipulate you) in very specific ways.

Turow seems to focus not as much on everyone's favorite punching bags, Google and Facebook, but rather on what he calls the transformation of the media buying function through what might be referred to as the advertising technology revolution. (While largely centered in New York, the ad tech business has some important Philadelphia connections.) Turow writes that "the rise of digital profiling and personalization has spawned a new industrial jargon that reflects potentially grave social divisions and privacy issues".

Turow will give talk on the subject tomorrow evening from 6 to 7:30pm at the Penn Bookstore.


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