The Internet Axis of Evil (continued)

Esther Dyson has a new report on spyware.  The report isn’t available online, but a summary of it is here.  You can purchase it and I suggest that everyone who has an interest in this issue do just that.

Esther compares spyware to spam, a comparison I have made as well in the past.

Esther is right about a bunch of things.

She is right that the spam problem is becoming managed now that we have the tools, systems, and rules in place to understand who is doing bad stuff, who is not, and how to tell the difference.

Esther is also right that there is a "baby in the bathwater" in the spyware debate that we don’t want to throw out.  That "baby" is targeted advertising, like what Amazon does, where you get offers to purchase things you really want instead of ads that have no relevance at all.

Her point, a point that I have been trying to make as well, is that online advertising needs to be relevant to work well.  That means collecting information on behaviors and using it to deliver better ads. But, like spam, there are good ways to do this and bad ways.

We need rules, tools, and systems to determine who is doing it right and who is not.

Putting software on my machine that I don’t know about, can’t get rid of, that impacts the performance of my computer is bad.  That must be stopped and it will be stopped.

Amazon watching what I purchase and using that data to make additional purchase recommendations is good and must be allowed to continue.

It’s what happens in between those two extremes that is the essence of the debate.  A debtate the industry and the regulators are having.  I welcome that debate becuase it worked for spam and its going to work for adware too.