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Center for Digital Democracy Executive Director Jeff Chester, who earlier this week was critical of PBS' decision to sell banner ads on its Web site home pages, has another bone to pick over ads on PBS Web sites.

In a letter to ombudsman Michael Getler dated Friday, he complained about sponsored links on the Weg page, complaining about a lack of disclosure, for one thing.

I'm not sure of what else PBS is supposed to do faced with budget cut threats and competition for cultural and educational programming from cable, but disclosure is important.

Here's the letter:

Dear Mr. Getler:

Last January, we understand, PBS began to run "sponsored links" on its webpage.  I know of no announcement made by PBS that it was going to showcase such link ads.  When you click on a link–for example–the  "Are You Normal" ad at:
you go to a questionnaire.  Only by clicking on Chatterbeam's privacy policy" link do you learn that information about you will be collected; a "cookie" placed on your computer, and that your information may be shared with third parties.

I believe such links on the PBS site without full disclosure is a potentially deceptive feature of the PBS site.  First, such ad links should not appear at all (nor, in my opinion, the ads that are about to become more prominent this Fall).  But, at the very least, users should be made aware that they are leaving the PBS site; that this is a paid promotion; and that data may be collected and used.

I await your inquiry.

By John Eggerton