Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google Expands Its Behavioral Targeting Bulls-Eye

A year ago, when Google started testing its own version of “behavioral targeting” to track Web surfers’ visits, and serving them ads on other sites based on those visits, I predicted that the company was headed for a collision course with privacy advocates. Maybe even Congress.

And who knows? That may still happen. But Google (GOOG) isn’t slowing down. Instead, the search giant is taking its “remarketing” program out of beta and opening it up to all of its advertisers. Here’s Google’s description of the process:

Let’s say you’re a basketball team with tickets that you want to sell. You can put a piece of code on your tickets page on your website, which will let you later show relevant ticket ads (such as last minute discounts) to everyone who visits that page, as they subsequently browse sites in the Google Content Network. In the same way, you can run ads across the Google Content Network to everyone who visits your brand channel on YouTube or who clicks on your YouTube homepage ad (if you have either of those).

That will sound fairly innocuous to many people.

And it’s certainly fairly common–remarketing is pretty much standard practice on the Web these days. But the fact that Google makes it very difficult to opt out of remarketing (good luck finding this page*, which gives you that choice) is telling. If this stuff is truly no big deal, it should be no big deal if you don’t want to play along.

*Google notes that each of its ads contains a link that will lead you to its preferences and opt-out page. So noted. But unless you know in advance what Google is up to, it won’t occur to you to look for it.

[Image credit: ogimogi]


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work