[Read the follow-up letter from Predictive Networks founder Devin Hosea.]
I think it is important to add a few thoughts to the discussion that has been swirling around your recent article "Your TV Watches You."
The founder of Predictive Networks (now Predictive Media) in a recent e-mail expressed certain views about the point of view of the article's author and the overall slant of this piece. These comments must be understood to be the personal opinions of Mr. Hosea. They neither represent, nor should they be interpreted to imply, the opinion or concerns of the management or the board of directors of our company. Mr. Hosea is not affiliated with our company, he is speaking as a private individual.
That having been said, we at Predictive found the article of some interest, and despite the fact that we do not share the article's rosy view of the world of interactive advertising (we think as it is proposed today, it is a future business and always will be) we gained some insight from Farhad's work.
Salon.com is a popular read for many of our staff.
We look forward to keeping up with the work of your journalists.
-- Peter Mondics, chairman and CEO, Predictive Media
In a letter published here in Salon, Devin Hosea of Predictive Networks might be interpreted as suggesting that I somehow endorsed their technology. My last contact with Mr. Hosea (according to my records) was several years ago. While it is true that at that time it appeared that their system was designed to avoid some of the privacy abuses that would be possible with this category of monitoring technology, I consider any system collecting this sort of data without the informed and affirmative permission of the targets to be a privacy problem. So while Predictive's system may be "better" than some others in a relative sense, that alone doesn't make it acceptable.
I'd also add that Mr. Hosea's characterization of me as representing the "radical privacy movement" (whatever that is) is likely to upset persons who actually fall into that category. My approach to privacy controversies has always been to try find practical, consensus approaches -- a policy that has not always delighted folks on either side of these issues.
-- Lauren Weinstein, co-founder, People for Internet Responsibility
Devin F. Hosea writes, essentially, that we should shut up and enjoy being individual markets, since his technology is so perfect. OK, suppose he's right. Suppose no one ever misuses the data he's collecting. (Ha!)
Let me ask you: Do you like being marketed at 24 hours a day? Commercials in elevators, taxis, and on those nice little TVs you get if you fly a decent airline? Do you like being tracked? Do you like marketing people assuming your time is theirs?
I don't. Get the hell out of my TV. And stop talking to me like I'm some paranoid idiot. Just because you can get data out of me doesn't mean I have to like it, or believe it's necessary. It's my life and my data. Hands off.
-- Robert Oakley
Devin F. Hosea, the founder of Predictive Networks, concluded his letter concerning the article written by Farhad Manjoo:
"If journalists took the time to understand the Predictive privacy-protection technology, it might calm their paranoid rhetoric and appease their justified Orwellian concerns."
In my humble opinion, Mr. Hosea ought to have taken the time to identify the Web pages, if there are any, that clearly describe and explain the "Predictive privacy-protection technology" to which he alleges, and to include links to such Web pages in his letter. By doing so, he would present journalists, as well as anyone else who reads the letter, an opportunity to learn about the "privacy technology." Instead, it seems from his comments preceding the conclusion that Mr. Hosea believes that only "experts" and/or organizations such as those he mentions are likely to be competent to learn about and to evaluate the "privacy technology," whatever it may be, that Predictive Networks has developed.
-- Ocie Hudson