"A great democratising force"

These are the words of Andrew Walmsley, co-founder of digital agency i-level, speaking about the internetat an IAB sponsored debate at the House of Commons last Monday evening. The motion for discussion was “online advertising compromises privacy” and you can read a summary of the debate here.

Andrew’s words could not ring truer. He set out his argument by outlining the business model behind this “force”: advertising. Advertising on the internet funds the mass of information and entertainment we enjoy, the “oceans of creativity” (to quote the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport, Andy Burnham), and the services we all use everyday, from email to social networking sites. We share views, ideas, preferencesand experiences with each other. It is a democratic adventure. This may all sound a bit obvious to Brand Republic readers but, believe me, its not for many, including the very people who makes rules and regulations about the online world. This is why the IAB has embarked upon a specific programme to help the civil service layer of government develop a better understanding of online and its benefits. It’s a complex beast and we need this audience to ‘get it’.

Privacy is probably the biggest issues facing the online world at the moment and its certainly at the top of the list of discussions that we’re having withour friendsin government. It is critical that – we, the industry – get this right if we are to continue to enjoy the delights of the internet (see Kieron Matthews’ entertaining ‘beer and presents’ blog). A failure to do this may mean we face the possibility of returning (worse still, being forced to return) to – using once again the fine words of Andrew Walmsley – the “Amish internet”.

The motion was overwhemingly defeated.