User Tracking Isn’t So Bad

February 21st, 2008 by Chris

There has been much privacy broohaha for the past years about privacy and user tracking. Specifically how ad companies will “track” users across websites.

This, I think, has mostly been overblown, and really, is a good thing, not a bad thing.

I’m taking my wife to Vegas this Spring and these past two weeks I’ve been booking our trip and shopping for clothes. The evil ad company has profiled me, undoubtedly with the help of the evil travel website, and now on many sites I’m getting ads for… Las Vegas coupons and hotel deals! The nerve of those people to give me special offers and more targeted advertising just because they know I’m going to Vegas. I’m so offended!

Seriously though, they don’t know that I, Chris Beasley, tall goateed man, is going to Vegas. They know that user 897987 or user with ip of 333.444.555.666 is going to Vegas, and so, they’re showing this anonymous user appropriate ads. Sure, the travel website I booked with knows my personal information, but they don’t (and more importantly, don’t need to) share it with their ad partners. They just need to share a cookie, a small anonymous marker, and or my IP.

I’ve also been shopping on for hot dresses for when I take my wife out at night. So what do I see on some sites now? Ads for 10% off my next purchase at Bluefly. The horror! Again, sure, Bluefly knows my personal information, but they don’t need to share it for this tracking to work, they just need to set a cookie or give my IP to the ad network.

As a consumer, I like this personalization and customization of the ads I see. I’d much rather see an ad for 10% off a store I might buy actually from, rather than an ad to download a smiley screensaver. I don’t feel creeped out about tracking because I know I’m just an arbitrary number to them, like just another box in that warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

As a website publisher, this kind of advertising excites me and makes me feel good about the future of online advertising. In the February 18th issue of Fortune there was an article about one of the largest ad buyers in the world and how he is both impressed with and encouraged by the tracking ability of the web (and so spending more money on Internet advertising) as well as how he wants to port that same type of targeting to TV, if possible. So, really, this kind of tracking and targeting of advertising is what brings the big money to play on the Internet, making it important for every publisher.

Unfortunately, public perception of the negativity of such advertising persists, we all need to do our part to help our industry by educating, friends, family, and customers, as to the true value of these tracking systems.

2 Responses to “User Tracking Isn’t So Bad”

  1. Peck  Says:

    “they don’t (and more importantly, don’t need to) share it with their ad partners”

    They do, ad buyers pay more for more informations about you. The more they have, the more they can target you, and show you a successful ad.
    This include your age and sex as you may guess, but also family, activities, earnings, where you live, anything …

  2. Chris  Says:

    All of which would still be arbitrary, tied to some numeric indentifier. Demographic information isn’t personal unless you are individually and personally indentified.

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