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Google Launches Behavioral Targeting Ad Program
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Kurt Opsahl over at Electronic Frontier Foundation had a great post about Google's new behavioral targeting ad program. Google's plan is to create technology that makes the advertising on Google, and the sites of their partners, as relevant as possible. This "internet based advertising" as Google is calling it works by collecting a cookie to remember a user's visits. Google stores a number in the user's browser to remember their visits and as the user visits their sites of choice Google will serve ads up to the user based on their past browser experience. There is an opt out option for those concerned with privacy issues.

Google's thoughts: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/making-ads-more-interesting.html

An excerpt from Kurt's post:

The issues with behavioral advertising have been with us for over a decade (DoubleClick was founded in 1996, and privacy issues soon followed), and have grown as more people use more services online and more information has become available about your online behavior. Many, including EFF, are concerned about behavioral targeting because it means that information about how you use the web is collected, stored and associated with a cookie on your browser, which can track you across different websites and online services. One way to help protect your privacy is to clear cookies regularly. However, this is insufficient, because a new cookie would be written the next time your browser loaded a banner ad.

The most privacy protective solution would be to have behavioral targeting systems be based on the user's opt-in. To no one's surprise, Google has not gone down that road ("'Offering advertising on an opt-in basis goes against the economic model of the Internet,' Google spokesperson Christine Chen told the IDG News Service"), and we are not aware of any major player in online advertising that has an opt-in targeting system. Google has, however, done some things that make opt-out quite a bit better.

Google contacted us about behavioral targeting early on in their development process, and solicited our feedback. One issue we discussed was a persistent problem with opting-out of targeted online advertising -- the use of cookies to opt-out of tracking cookies. The problem is that the very users who care most about privacy are the ones most likely to delete cookies. Yet, if a user deleted all their cookies, they would also delete the cookie that had opted them out of the targeting.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether Google is successful with these behavioral targeting ads.

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, March 12, 2009  
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