February 23rd, 2011
What is Tracking (a.k.a. Behavioral Targeting)?
What’s so bad about ad tracking on the web, a.k.a. behavioral targeting? Nothing, if you don’t mind being a living stereotype. No, seriously—that’s what much of the fuss over “Do Not Track” browser options and opt-out options is about. Ad companies watch what you do online, and they make bold assumptions about you. How you feel about that is up to you.
You might go months and months without ever noticing it, but surf around online and look closely at the edges of your web pages once in a while. Unless you’ve tweaked the settings on your browser, you’re allowing not just the sites you visit, but the ads they display, to learn a bit more about you.
How does it work in practice? Let’s take Google’s ad network as an example. Yesterday, I searched Google because I couldn’t remember how many tablespoons of coffee to put into my use-your-own-coffee Keurig K-Cup.
Later that day, doing research for this post, I noticed a peculiarly specific ad in an odd context. Do most Wired readers need Keurig refills? Maybe, but, wow, what a coincidence!