The issue of collecting and processing search engine data, as well as other Web surfing habits, by ISPs from users stands to be an emerging issue in 2008. Essentially companies like Google, Yahoo as well as others like NebuAd are developing the ability to process information they collect from you and (for lack of a better word) deduce your interests, primarily for advertising purposes. Some government agencies have begun to take notice. NebuAd, as the ClickZ story reports, is already discussing the capabilities of its behavior tracking and ad targeting software with the Federal Trade Commission. Concerns about this concept were implicit in some of the opposition to the Google-Doubleclick merger, but I believe the complexity was lost on both sides. This issue bears watching into the new year because it will pit those concerned about privacy against enterprises looking to expand a potential universe of buyers. The line between welcome promotion and unwanted intrusion is always moving, and it can vary from individual to individual. Some will happily sacrifice a chance to save on groceries in order to avoid having purchases tracked through a supermarket card club. Stay tuned.
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.