Every fundraiser, every issue advocate reading this post targets his or her audience.

At least you should. But how far are you prepared to go?

The targeting tools available for getting a precise message to a precise prospect in the online medium are truly awesome … and commensurately frightening and increasingly controversial.

Your online behaviors and preferences are constantly recorded and monitored, whether you're filling out order forms, signing petitions, making donations, conducting searches, filling out profiles on social networking sites, or just browsing the web. Any and all of this personal data can be used to drive targeted messaging (e.g., advertising, calls-to-action, fundraising). More on the process from this previous Agitator post, Emitting Digital Residue.

Try these articles, in order, to see where online targeting is headed and the issues involved.

1. From Behavioral Insider, here's an interview with Axciom's chief strategist that reminds us that direct mail marketers have always targeted … from choosing mailing lists to making data appends and selects. Their techniques are being “re-discovered” and embellished by online marketers.

2. From Search Insider, a description of how you can target users of Facebook, the fastest growing site on the internet, based on their volunteered profile information … looking for political liberals in Austin, TX who are college-educated and are David Letterman fans?

3. Are you worried yet? Some consumer advocates say you should be. As reported in this NY Times article, they are calling for the government to set-up a mandatory do-not-track list for the internet. As the article notes, such a list gives the consumer a choice — receive relevant ads, or irrelevant ones! But make no mistakes, the ads are here to stay.

Over a year ago, in our first Agitator reader survey, respondents didn't express much concern about online privacy issues. Roger and I debated the issue a bit. You can track our food fight from this post (Roger was Mr. ACLU Privacy Advocate; I was Mr. Prying Eyes).

Might be time for a re-read … we'd love to hear your views.

Tom

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