Web giants questioned on targeted advertising

Thirty US internet firms including Google, Microsoft and Verizon have been issued a “please explain” by a US Senate committee concerned with the privacy implications of targeted advertising.

Targeted or tailored advertising uses data collected about the user’s browsing history by a process called “deep packet inspection” to select and display relevant online ads.

Reuters reports that US lawmakers have sent letters to the internet companies seeking information such as when and how often ad targeting practices have been used and whether consent was sought from the web users exposed to the ads.

“We are interested in the nature and extent to which you engage in such practices, and the impact it could have on consumer privacy,” said the letter from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell and ranking committee Republican Joe Barton.

Concerns have been growing about the impact of targeted advertising on consumer privacy over the past 12 months. Facebook triggered a torrent of criticism from its users when it tried to introduce a similar system late last year.

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