December 4, 2007 4:00 AM PST

Target me with your ads, please

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Microsoft also offers behavioral targeting, anonymously tracking people across its network and blending that with search history and data supplied during registration to Microsoft's many online services. But it doesn't provide identifiable information, according to the company.

So far, Google hasn't jumped into the behavioral targeting pool, but who knows what will happen if its proposed acquisition of DoubleClick is approved and the market matures?

Meanwhile, the privacy debate goes on. Privacy advocates worry that details of our medical conditions and financial and legal troubles will end up in the wrong hands and for bad uses as the industry consolidates and companies change their practices.

"There really are no legal limitations today on what companies can do with personal information they collect for targeting purposes," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. And "if you provide information to a company with certain expectations and the company revises the terms of service, what do you do at that point? You can't say, 'I want my data back.'"

Data collection and sharing should be opt-in for consumers and the FTC should hold companies to their promises on protecting consumer data privacy, he said. Companies that are part of the Network Advertising Initiative, including Specific Media, Yahoo and AOL's Tacoda, allow people to opt out.

At the town hall meeting in Washington, D.C., an FTC commissioner urged companies to stop collecting information about consumers by default, and to clearly tell them what they are doing with the data, among other suggestions.

In some cases, the public backlash against an advertising scheme will be enough to get a company to back down. Last week, Facebook was forced to modify a new ad targeting service after consumer groups complained it was too invasive.

Two weeks ago, Facebook introduced "Beacon" ads, which automatically send information to your Facebook friends when you buy things on sites of Facebook partners. After a barrage of criticism, Facebook now won't broadcast your purchase information unless you click an "OK" button for each transaction. The company, however, did not provide a way to opt out of all Beacon ads.

"Behavioral targeting has gone from tracking an individual on one Web site, collecting data about their interests and content they like and what they put in their shopping cart to shadowing their movements around the Internet," said Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy. "Facebook brings it to a whole new level, which is the perfect privacy storm."

At this point, I'm not personally bothered when I see targeted ads, but I want to know what type of data is being collected and what is being done with it. And I don't think companies are doing the best job of providing me with that information. I would prefer the opportunity to opt in, and I definitely wouldn't want my activities on the Web to be broadcast to even my closest friends, let alone marketers.

Now, back to ignoring the ads.

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Maybe it's me...
But, I never look at any ads and have never clicked on one intentionally...except once, when that high-school-reunion site promised to be able to hook me up with all my old pals. Didn't work.

To me, it's unsettling that there are a lot of folks (apparently) who will click on site ads regularly.
Posted by Kings X Rocks! (89 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I often end up glazing over the ads, maybe only briefly seeing them. But they're never relevant, usually annoying.

Recognizing that advertising isn't going away, I would be happy to fill out a questionnaire to tailor the ads to be more relevant to me.

It would be a (win)-(win)-(less-of-a-loss) situation. (Advertisers - Advertising Network - me)

Tie it to the surfing habit monitoring you're already doing and you have a backup in case I lie and say I'm not in the market for a new car and then keep going to car sites.

Just seems like there's a business model in being transparent and offering a solution. Because isn't that what marketing is? Offering solutions to problems we didn't realize we had?
Posted by TV James (680 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In parts advertising is Brilliant!
Be responsible or get punished, that should be in every company's business theme and Vision Statement.
These very same principles should be acknowledged by the Internet user and security should come first at all times.

Advertising is and has always been effective and rather you click on the advertisement or not is not the most important part, but more so the BRANDING. Branding is everything in business and the more you expose your brand the easier it is to be recognized.
Poor advertising is not good, but will only be remembered for a few days, where as the brand could be remembered for a lifetime.

Advertising for the most part works for me when it is new and then I might click on it, but it better be good and persuasive or I will pass it by. If it is informative I'm not interested, where as if it tells me that I can't or should live without it I might pay more attention.

So for advertising in general! TURN IT ON and let me be the judge.

Merry Christmas everyone.
Posted by ntrsource (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
I never click on ads either, at least not on purpose. One time I almost did- The marketer tricked me with clever reverse psychology- the ad read: "whatever you do, do not click on this ad!" or something like that. Made me laugh and I really almost clicked on it...I guess I'm glad that some people out there click on them, though!
Posted by *gil (2 comments )
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Advertisers don't get it
There are ads everywhere. So people tuned them out. So advertisers get more desperate.

The only ads I pay attention to are the simple text ads by Google. Graphic, bandwidth-stealing ads I ignore and block altogether.

Advertisers have it wrong. STOP ad targeting, STOP ads that distract. START using simple ads like Google.
Posted by i_am_still_wade (250 comments )
Reply Link Flag
2 words - Adblock Plus
Single best utility since Notepad... Adblock Plus

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

I haven't seen an ad in Firefox since I installed this.

Ads are annoying and they slow down the loading of a web page.
Posted by AshDK (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I hate all the ads. Most of the ones I've seen are for anti-aging and wrinkle advertisements. I am not even a senior citizen! It is really some kind of materialistic pigeonholing and I object to it.
Posted by starlingcity (1 comment )
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