Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Targeted Advertising

I experienced consumer tracking today.  I looked up typography for my web design class, and an ad for the book I'm using in web design popped up.

I spend a lot of time online.  Ads aren’t a new thing to me.  I’ve gotten so used to them that I sort of ignore them.  For this reason, I don’t see a problem in targeted advertising.  As consumers, we like specific things.  It only makes things easier for us when ads direct us to what we want.  I really think the information that we insert into searches and the things we like are fair game.  If ads are the way to go to make money online, then what other options do they really have?  Another thing to mention is the keyword here is “free.”

“ executives say the trade-off is fair for their users, who get free access to its dictionary and thesaurus service.
"Whether it's one or 10 cookies, it doesn't have any impact on the customer experience, and we disclose we do it," says spokesman Nicholas Graham. "So what's the beef?"”

-The Web’s New Gold Mine (Julia Angwin)

We get free services, and the information collected doesn’t include our name and location.  Everything is rounded up in a code.  I think people should consider also that we put our information up for free on websites.  If we have public profiles, anyone can read our tweets.  All you have to do is search a particular word.  These companies do the same thing.  If we “like” things on Facebook, millions of other people will like the same thing.  Any random person can also see this without knowing us personally.

I was shocked by Healthline’s selectiveness though.  I certainly consider anything health-related to be sensitive.  That’s why we have confidential medical records.  I also wonder how effective the enforcement is of the below quote especially when most companies don’t even realize they have trackers on their site.

“Healthline says it doesn't let advertisers track users around the Internet who have viewed sensitive topics such as HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, eating disorders and impotence. The company does let advertisers track people with bipolar disorder, overactive bladder and anxiety, according to its marketing materials.

-The Web’s New Gold Mine (Julia Angwin)

Overall, I don’t find it wrong to have online activity used in this way.  We have enough control to actually remove ourselves from these trackers.  In regards to the article “Facebook friend turns into Big Brother”, those teens had control over adding the friend request from a strange girl who happened to be a cop.  Things change, and I have to agree with Officer Al Iverson who said, “Law enforcement has to evolve with technology.”


  1. Great image - while I'm sure that ad is used for many users visiting the site, it does feel a bit spooky that it's the exact book used in the class for which you were searching for fonts!

    In terms of removing ourselves from online trackers - do we really have that much control over it? Do most of us even know that we're being tracked? I wonder if informed consent for tracking should be a prerequisite to our using a site that installs trackers?

  2. I don't think many people realize how often they are tracked or when exactly they are tracked. There isn't some popup that says "you're being tracked." Perhaps it's listed in privacy policies on sites. The unfortunate thing is that many sites don't realize they have trackers. In a way, it's sort of a lose if people aren't informed.