Google has launched "interest-based advertising," which will display ads based on the user's previous searches and page views. Google's experiment with behavioral targeting has also been done by Yahoo and others as a way of increasing ad revenue through a more granular focus on viewers, but has led to privacy concerns.
announced on March 11 that it was launching a beta version of what it
terms "interest-based advertising," a type of behavioral targeting that
to users based on their previous searches and page views.
Based on previous site visits and page views, Google will
link "categories of interest" such as cars or fishing to your browser, which
will then display targeted ads. If you've spent the last two months frequently
perusing sites having to do with virtualization upgrades, for example, then
interest-based advertising would ensure that you saw ads for such upgrades even
when on YouTube, or while visiting a car site.
The beta test will initially include a handful of
advertisers before expanding to a larger number.
has already embraced behavioral targeting as a potential revenue generator. On
Feb. 24, the company announced that it was introducing a new product called
Search Retargeting, designed to give "advertisers the ability to target display
advertising based on user search activities."
While retaining user data may help refine searches, it has
also made privacy a hot-button topic for Google and other search-engine
In response to privacy advocates arguing that user data
should be deleted from these providers' systems as fast as possible, Google
announced in September 2008 that it was effectively halving its search data
retention to nine months.
On Dec. 17, 2008, not to be outdone, Yahoo
announced that it would anonymize log data within 90 days.
Google seems to have anticipated that its new interest-based
advertising will lead to a similar eruption in privacy-advocate objections and
is determined to head them off at the proverbial pass.
"This kind of tailored advertising does raise questions
about user choice and privacy - questions the whole online ad industry has a
responsibility to answer," said Susan Wojcicki, vice
president of Product Management for Google. "Many companies already
provide interest-based advertising and they address these issues in different
ways. For our part, we're launching interest-based advertising with three
important features that demonstrate our commitment to transparency and user choice."
Those "three important features" include:
ads with information about how Google serves ads, and "the information we
use to show you ads."
- A new
tool called Ad Preferences Manager that lets users add or delete interest
categories associated with their browser.
ability to delete the advertising cookie for the AdSense partner network.
Describing the intersection of advertising and privacy as a
"challenging policy issue," Nicole Wong, deputy general counsel for
Google, claimed in a blog posting this morning that the
company's interest-based advertising is "a product that's not only
consistent with industry groups' privacy principles, but also goes