Google recently announced it was moving deeper into “interest-based” advertising, a way to tailor specific ads toward users based on their surfing habits. From the Google Blog:
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.
We believe there is real value to seeing ads about the things that interest you. If, for example, you love adventure travel and therefore visit adventure travel sites, Google could show you more ads for activities like hiking trips to Patagonia or African safaris. While interest-based advertising can infer your interest in adventure travel from the websites you visit, you can also choose your favorite categories, or tell us which categories you don’t want to see ads for. Interest-based advertising also helps advertisers tailor ads for you based on your previous interactions with them, such as visits to their websites. So if you visit an online sports store, you may later be shown ads on other websites offering you a discount on running shoes during that store’s upcoming sale.
Such direct online advertising was inevitable, but as Ars Technica notes, that inevitability hasn’t stopped privacy experts form being concerned:
Google is careful to note that the new system doesn’t attach any identifying information to the cookie, though the mere fact that it exists is already too much for some critics. “Google might well hype their targeting system as a boon to pet owners, but the reality is that the service will track just about everything you do and everything you’re interested in, no matter how personal or sensitive,” Privacy International head Simon Davies told the BBC. He and others believe that the system should off by default and allow users to opt-in if they choose, but Google insists that it believes opt-out is the way to go.