The rapid growth of the Internet -- and the promise of future growth -- has been driven primarily by online advertising. Web sites and search engines are able to provide valuable services to consumers for free due in large part to advertiser funding. Like commercials on television and ads in newspapers and magazines, online ads have become staples of the Internet medium. Without them, many web sites would either have to charge subscription fees or would simply cease to exist.

At the same time, one of the most powerful aspects of the Internet is its ability to personalize information for each particular user. Personalization allows consumers to receive the information, content, and products they want. The same holds true for online advertising. Targeted online advertising benefits consumers by showing them ads that are useful, relevant, and pertain to their particular interests.

This week, we're joining consumer advocates, technology experts, and academics for the Federal Trade Commission's two-day "town hall" meeting on behavioral advertising. This is the first time since 2000 that the Commission has taken an industry-wide look at online advertising practices, and given the recent acquisitions in the space by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and others, it's a good time to explore the privacy implications of new ad technologies, and in an industry-wide way. A few Googlers will be on hand to discuss principles that can guide online advertising in the future:

  • Tim Armstrong, Google’s President of North American Advertising and Commerce, will describe Google’s core advertising business, and the benefits that our advertising products bring to consumers and to advertisers and publishers — including thousands of small businesses. Tim will also discuss why we purchased DoubleClick, what its business model is, and the great importance that we have placed on privacy in the context of this acquisition. And he'll talk about the importance of user trust to Google and our need to maintain that trust by protecting user privacy in our advertising practices.
  • Nicole Wong, our Deputy General Counsel, will describe Google's efforts to embed privacy awareness into all corners of the company's operations by deploying a broad team of people, including privacy counsels, product counsels, product developers, and security and support teams, to work on privacy as part of their everyday jobs. Nicole will also detail Google's efforts to make sure we protect our users' privacy while making online advertising more relevant and effective. She will explain how Google’s advertising offerings target ads to consumers using query-based targeting and contextual targeting.
  • Jane Horvath, Senior Privacy Counsel, will talk about our efforts to innovate in the area of privacy. Jane will describe how we build principles of transparency and choice into Google products and outline the steps we've taken to deliver on our commitment to communicate clearly with users about privacy. Our users are increasingly using blogs and videos to communicate with one another, and we're using these tools to provide more accessible, easy-to-understand explanations of our privacy policies.
In that vein, we're launching a new Google Privacy Channel on YouTube which will feature videos that are designed to keep users informed about our privacy policies and initiatives. Our goal is simple: to empower you, our users, to make more informed choices about how you use our products.

UPDATE: CNET is doing some good liveblogging of the event.