Monday, March 16, 2009

Google’s New Behavioral Targeting Service - a Step in the Right Direction on Privacy Issue

A few weeks ago I posted about the pressures being put on online advertisers, and the Web sites that run their ads, to address the growing privacy concerns around behavioral targeting.

Now, to liven up the debate, Google announced last week that it will be launching a beta-test of its own behavioral targeting service on AdSense partner sites and YouTube.

Google is not referring to the service as “behavioral,” but instead is calling it “interest-based” advertising. From what I can tell, the beta service will offer two of the more common ad targeting techniques:

  • Behavioral – where an inference is made regarding a Web user’s interests based on the Web sites they visit
  • Retargeting – the re-marketing to an online consumer who has shown previous interest in a product or service, but for some reason never followed through on that interest

These techniques are no different from targeting approaches used by other ad networks. That said, what is different about Google’s service is the proactive approach they are taking to address some of the concerns about targeted ads raised by privacy advocates. For example:

  1. They will be expanding the number of formats and publishers that allow users to click on targeted ads served up by Google for detail on the information that was used to deliver the ads and how that information was collected
  2. Users will be give the means to view, delete or add information about the types of ads they would like to see through a tool called the “Ads Preferences Manager”
  3. They will be providing users with an easily accessible way to opt-out of future targeted advertising

In Google’s own words, their approach gives users “transparency,” “control” and “choice.” Hopefully, these steps will quell some of the rumblings from privacy advocates who have been calling for greater regulation of the online ad industry which is the last thing we need in the middle of a recession.

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