Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If Not Advertising, What?

How to monetize the Internet is thee big question right now. Currently, advertisers use behavioral targeting which involves "two types of activities: following users' actions and then tailoring advertisements for the users based on those actions. While privacy advocates have lambasted behavioral targeting for tracking and labeling people in ways they do not know or understand, marketers have defended the practice by insisting it gives Americans what they want: advertisements and other forms of content that are as relevant to their lives as possible."

Julia Angwin recently led a team of reporters from The Wall Street Journal in an effort to analyze the tracking software that tracking companies use to spy on internet users. They surveyed the top 50 American websites, which account for about 40% of the web pages viewed by Americans, and on average, each website was installing about 65 different types of tracking technologies. The majority are from third party companies - data brokers and advertising networks - collecting data which are then sold on a stock market-like exchange to online advertisers. In the past 18 months a secondary market has arisen for that data.

In one instance, by clicking on a single web page (not entering any information) a tracking company called x+1 said they can find out where you like to shop, your income, whether you're a parent and how old your children are...a little unnerving to say the least.

Now, The Wall Street journal clearly has an agenda. In addition to collecting and profiting from Personally Identifiable Information as a policy, they have decided to sell their content by subscription. And that means that it has an interest in scaring people away from the site that provide "free" content. Cookies are nothing new and they function, in part, to keep most of the web free to readers, however, the advertising methods on the Internet grow more sophisticated every day and the following information is very helpful to know regardless of the WSJ's motivation.


The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets:  A Journal investigation finds that one of the fastest-growing businesses on the Internet is the business of spying on consumers.

Privacy Choice

Steel Cage Debate On The Future Of Online Advertising: Danny Sullivan Vs. Eric Clemons


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