Via Joe, I just read this NY Times article on Jen King and colleagues' new study on Americans' attitudes about privacy and behavioral targeting: Two-Thirds of Americans Object to Online Tracking.

The article brought up some thoughts I started knocking around last summer while working at Yahoo! with Elizabeth Churchill. Namely this contradiction, the form of which I borrow from Larry Downes' Law of Disruption:

Attitudes about privacy change incrementally, but revenue models for free online services change exponentially.

Result: what companies need to do to support free services clashes with privacy attitudes. Note that I'm not making any statement about the goodness or badness of behavioral targeting. My only point is that the expectation of free online services sometimes doesn't jive that well with the fact that the companies that provide those services have to find a way to make money.

As concerns about privacy, control of personal data, and behavioral targeting escalate, I predict we're going to find at least some companies crying foul that consumers want to have their cake and eat it too. This could lead to a move towards subscription services that relieve companies from the burden of having to make money from targeted ads, market research, and the like.

Update: Here's the original study.