As noted the other day here, Google is intending to start tracking YOU when you go to a site that uses google ads and try to target you based on what it knows about you. HOW does it know this information? Through cookies that are going to somehow aggregate your interests. Now Google like to call this *interest-based* advertising as opposed to the creepier term "behavioral ad advertising".
Google is offering something called an Ad Preferences Manager, where you view and edit the ad categories Google has placed you in based on your past behavior. If you like, you can even tell Google to serve you ads in additional categories.
You can also opt-out of the program. But this is a cookie-based opt-out, which means you'll have to opt-out on every machine and every browser you use. It also means that if you're someone who regularly clears your cookies for privacy reasons, you'll opt yourself back in.
Google does offer a browser plug-in that maintains your opt-out even when cookies are cleared, but it's only available for Firefox and IE. So, you're out of luck if you're running Safari or Opera - or Google's own Chrome
Right now, for example, you might go to a site (take ours!) that has an ad for Ann Coulter. Bleck, you might say, why the fool is Ann Coulter on this site? Because, site owner says back, we have no way to know that you despise Ann Coulter, don't ever read her books, turn the channel when she comes onto television and avoid any articles anywhere that mention her. And Google just randomly puts up an ad, one size fits all. But suppose Google Knows Where You Have Been And What You Like, and puts up an ad Just For You-Go Buy This NOW!
(Incidentally, here's the link to NetworkAdvertising.org where you can opt out of a bunch at once. Can I just say again how creepy this page is-it shows you whether you have opted out of a range of advertisers and whether you already have a cookie on your computer from them.)
Specialized cookies that track where you go will undoubtedly lead to some hilarious ads. (And, as we mentioned, someplace in Google's fortress, you will be able to opt out). And sites that use google ads will have to TELL YOU via privacy policies that they are targeting you, Minority Report style.
Seems, though, that this FINALLY has got the attention of government, which entity hasn't seemed to give a hoot abour your privacy up to this point. I guess it's because congresspeople don't like it. Via Register
The Virginia congressman said yesterday he's working on a bill that will put restrictions on how internet companies can collect, save, store, and share user information.
Thus far, online ad firms have enjoyed a Bush administration policy of voluntary, self-regulation for protecting user privacy and disclosing what they do with personal data. But with a new boss in the White House, the FCC recently has taken a firmer stance on its "guidance" for the industry and last month warned online firms it's their "last clear chance" to show self-regulation is effective in policing data-collection policies.
Now Boucher says he's working with other ranking members of the communications subcommittee, Republican Representatives Cliff Stearns and Joe Barton, on a bill to take privacy rules out of the hands of online ad agencies.
There's one key graf in here
Boucher said that although he doesn't have the details of the plan worked out, it will be based on how prominent Google's behavioral ad policy is displayed and how easily understandable it is to users.
IF Google intends for the notification to be via privacy policies on pages, that simply isn't enough. In fact, people ought to have to opt in instead of have to opt out.