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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Comment on Google’s Interest-Based Advertising: "People do not want their interests tracked and sold"

Google earlier this month announced that they will offer some advertisers a chance to target ad campaigns to specific interests. For instance, an advertiser could set up a campaign for a “sports enthusiast” interest category, which is made up of people who visited sports pages in the past. Ionut of Google Operating System sent in a comment to that post by Dave from Canada, who writes (emphasis by author):

As I’ve said before, I don’t like this, not one bit. My prediction is that the “Google is tracking” message will go mainstream and many, many people will react, badly.

People do not want their interests tracked and sold. (...)

This is the second time I’ve written that Google has made a bad move in the last while. The first was with their canceling of Google Notebook (an excellent service by the way). I’m really starting to think that there’s been a coup at Google and the bean-counters have seized control. It’s all looking pretty bad from my perspective... Google is acting like every other corporation out there, and that’s not a good thing. There is no way I’d let Microsoft track me the way Google does; Google used to be special. Not so any more.

So, who’s going to start the company that will replace Google? Loyalty is everything on the web and Google is throwing it away, basically for pennies on the dollar.

What do you think of this comment?

If you’re wondering how Google gathers this interest category information in the first place, here’s an explanation from their help page on the subject:

As users browse websites in the AdSense network, including YouTube, Google stores an advertising cookie in a user’s browser to understand the types of pages that user is visiting. This information is used to show ads based on interest categories that might appeal to your users. For example, if a user browses many sports-related websites displaying AdSense ads or watches sports-related videos on YouTube, Google may associate a sports interest category with their cookie and show the user more sports-related ads. Users can also edit their list of interest categories within the Ads Preferences Manager.

The user information we gather from AdSense sites is used in accordance with Google’s privacy policy. It is not used to identify users personally and we don’t show ads based on personal information. We also will not show ads based on sensitive information or interest categories, such as those based on race, religion, sexual orientation, health, or sensitive financial categories, without a user’s opt-in consent.

A huge number of websites display AdSense, including many of my own sites. (Personally I’ve opted out of Google’s behavioral targeting when AdSense is displayed to me.)

[Thanks Ionut!]


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