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Yahoo and Google Make it Easier for you to Opt Out

added by Michael on 10 Aug 2008

TechCrunch reports that Yahoo and Google are both letting you opt-out of of the ad targeting that they use on their websites. 

At least Yahoo was honest enough to come out and say that the new policy was a direct response to Congressional scrutiny over the intrusiveness of online advertising and behavioral targeting.  Google's announcement was buried in a blog post about DoubleClick Cookies.

 "What's the big deal?", you might ask.


Ad companies such as DoubleClick, now owned by Google, use HTTP cookies to track users as they travel from website to website, recording what commercial advertisements they view and select while browsing.  By investigating your internet cache, something your web browser can do with a little JavaScript, an ad savvy programmer can interporlate a great deal of information about you as a consumer: where you've been online, what you like to do, what your interests are...


...one enterprising programmer compared developed a script to inspect your browsing history and use that to determine if you were male or female.


Information Week describes it thusly:

Ad customization is sometimes referred to using the more predatory-sounding term "behavioral targeting." It's a way to serve ads that correspond to consumers' interests, based on inferences drawn from data derived from consumers' declared personal information and/or from observed actions.


Though defended by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other online companies as a valuable service for consumers, behavioral targeting has been criticized by privacy advocates. Congress and the Federal Trade Commission have been looking into the practice.


"Too many consumers spend time on the Internet without knowledge or notice that they are under commercial surveillance," said Sen. Daniel K. Inouye in a statement during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing last month on the privacy implications of online ads. "They assume they are in the privacy of their own home and that this privacy will be respected. Unfortunately, this is not always the case."

You can opt-out of Yahoo and Google's ads with those links, but that doesn't prevent unscrupulous souls from being able to inspect you and your internet preferences.