March 11 2009 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Information Year: 2009 Rating: 2
Google's announcement that they are now openly beta-testing "interest-based advertising" confirms that the near-term future of web advertising will involve tapping into your behavior and interest graph.
From the Official Google Blog:
To date, we have shown ads based mainly on what your interests are at a specific moment. So if you search for [digital camera] on Google, you'll get ads related to digital cameras. ... We think we can make online advertising even more relevant and useful by using additional information about the websites people visit. Today we are launching "interest-based" advertising as a beta test on our partner sites and on YouTube. These ads will associate categories of interest — say sports, gardening, cars, pets — with your browser, based on the types of sites you visit and the pages you view. We may then use those interest categories to show you more relevant text and display ads.
There is no doubt that this will make for a more interesting and valuable advertising experience, while also boosting Google's bottom line by cutting out advertising inefficiencies. It is also clear that allowing Google to pair your behavioral data with your ad click data will open up a new frontier of behavioral data mining that will further fuel the Google system and lead to additional advances in search, understanding online behavioral modes, and advertising strategies.
Of course, the inexorable move to personal data integration (Facebook and Twitter are hard at work on similar initiatives and will be the next to jump into the data+search game - credit card, shopping club, and survey companies have been doing this for years) into one big-ass socio-behavioral graph pushes to the forefront a host of privacy, transparency, data control, and general social issues/questions that have been mustering force.
What does Google have to say about this?
The official company stance:
This kind of tailored advertising does raise questions about user choice and privacy — questions the whole online ad industry has a responsibility to answer. Many companies already provide interest-based advertising and they address these issues in different ways. For our part, we're launching interest-based advertising with three important features that demonstrate our commitment to transparency and user choice.
- Transparency - We already clearly label most of the ads provided by Google on the AdSense partner network and on YouTube. You can click on the labels to get more information about how we serve ads, and the information we use to show you ads. This year we will expand the range of ad formats and publishers that display labels that provide a way to learn more and make choices about Google's ad serving.
- Choice - We have built a tool called Ads Preferences Manager, which lets you view, delete, or add interest categories associated with your browser so that you can receive ads that are more interesting to you.
- Control - You can always opt out of the advertising cookie for the AdSense partner network here. To make sure that your opt-out decision is respected (and isn't deleted if you clear the cookies from your browser), we have designed a plug-in for your browser that maintains your opt-out choice.
In other words, you can opt out to various degrees and even establish granular control over the advertising being sent in your direction.
To be honest, this is something I've been pining for for quite some time. I'm one of those rare people that actually likes advertising when it's relevant to me because it decreases the amount of time I spend searching for products, events, websites, etc, that interest me (just as Google says).
By making ads more relevant, and improving the connection between advertisers and our users, we can create more value for everyone. Users get more useful ads, and these more relevant ads generate higher returns for advertisers and publishers.
Am I concerned about privacy and the quantification of my brain and behavior by third parties? Yes, but not enough to not want to use such services. After all, I (and you) already use credit cards that collect and sell my data to unscrupulous information aggregators that do not depend on myonline behavior for their life's blood. According to Google's own Marissa Mayer, it has been reported that such companies can two years in advance determine with 98% confidence that you will be going through a divorce - then adjust their advertising and offer targeting accordingly. (Yes she's biased, but this has been happening for decades, is pervasive. Even our government agencies are in the game.)
In the face of such data collection an opt-in/opt-out system sure seems nice. So maybe we should all help take this to the next level and begin demanding the Google Express card, a credit card that helps centralize and protect our data then even pays us back in bonus G-points for contributing to that big-ass social graph! (I'm only half-kidding. I'd rather be aligned with an entity I understand and that gives back value than have my data flow into a gigantic secretive vacuum. Of course, I will also be looking for assurances from Google that my data is in fact being protected - which has very delierately been the case thus far.)