Saturday, March 14, 2009

Convenience Over Privacy?

Recently, in my digital history class, we have been discussing the tailoring of ads, search results, and the internet in general, to the particular interests of a user. Some of the more frequently discussed forms of this personalized marketing include: amazon recommending books, itunes recommending music, facebook targeting ads, and Gmail and Google including personalized ads and searches. This marketing provides users with increasingly relevant and 'useful' information, while allowing companies to further expand their advertising and marking techniques. And who wouldn't want their search results to be more relevant?

Similarly, Google recently announced that is going to allow users to select the ads they see while using the internet. Google is launching an "interest-based" advertising on various partner sites, including YouTube. The idea is that interest-based advertising will infer users interests based on the websites they visit, and allow users to create favorite categories, or specify things they do not want to see ads for. No doubt this is one of the more advanced (extreme?) forms of target advertising out there.

The use of internet searches, and user preferences tracked through cookies raises the question of user privacy. It is possible to opt out of the AdSense advertising cookie, which is used for collecting user information to make ads more relevant. Even with this option of opting out, I wonder how much user privacy should be sacrificed for user convenience, especially if it's just convenient advertising? Currently the information collected by AdSense is only being used by those companies who have partnered with Google, but what if this information is released on a larger scale?

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