Google's new interest-based advertising may lead to increased revenues for the search company, but privacy advocates have a list of new concerns for Google. Yahoo and other search-engine companies already use a variant of this sort of advertising, called "behavioral targeting," in order to increase their advertisers' chances of success. However, now that Google has entered the mix, privacy advocates fear they have more to worry about.
has raised privacy concerns
with its newly launched interest-based advertising, which displays ads
users' previous searches and page views. Also known as "behavioral
targeting" or "online behavioral targeting," the method has privacy
advocates up in arms over
Google collecting massive amounts of user data.
search engines use this type of technology, the fact that Google is now testing
it has raised additional privacy concerns from those that see the search engine
giant as already collecting too much personal information on its users. However,
some others are defending Google, saying the company already has controls in
place to control how personal data is used and collected.
The new Google advertising system, currently in beta, links "categories of interest" to the user's browser, allowing targeted ads to appear even when the user is
looking at a page totally unrelated to the ad's subject
For example, someone who has spent months looking at
pages about mini-notebooks will find ads for mini-notebooks appearing even when
they're on a site unrelated to PCs.
Google's search rival Yahoo
has already introduced its own application based on behavioral targeting, called
Search Retargeting, which focuses display advertising based on users' search
histories. Search Retargeting, announced on Feb. 24, was anticipated by analysts
as having the potential to draw massive privacy protests, but pushback from
privacy advocates so far seems minimal.
For years, search engine companies have struggled to reassure the public that
whatever information they collect is not being abused. This has led to much
hand wringing about how long they should retain user data.
On Dec. 17, Yahoo announced that it could cleanse
its system of user log data within 90 days. By contrast, Google has publicly
stated that its data retention time is nine months.
Nicole Wong, deputy general counsel for Google, argued in a
interest-based ads provided "meaningful transparency and choice," with
the company drawing a line at data-mining potentially sensitive categories for
provide greater privacy protections to users, we will not serve interest-based
ads based on sensitive interest categories," she wrote. "For example, we don't
have health status interest categories or interest categories designed for
Users will be able access the individual interest categories
associated with their browser via a tool called Ad Preferences Manager and add
or delete specific ones.
to the profile is something we've been promoting for years, and what we've been
hearing from companies is that it would be too difficult for consumers; Google
has essentially disproved that," Alissa Cooper, chief
computer scientist for the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in
an interview. "On the ad profile and ad access front, they've moved the ball
also believes, though, that Google could stand to buttress its privacy
protection in other areas - particularly with regard to its cookies. At the
moment, Google users have the ability to delete their interest-based advertising
cookie for the AdSense partner network, curtailing Google's tracking; but
there's a catch.
"The cookie is only specific to the ads that Google is
serving," Cooper said, which still leaves users potentially open to other
search engines that utilize cookies for behavioral