Real-time bidding: An invasion of privacy?

I love this editorial, it's by my favorite editor at The Week, Eric Effron. "If you are creeped out by those online ads that seem to know far too much about us --"Looking for a divorce lawyer?" "Need to lose weight?"-- then brace yourself.

Marketers are starting to employ a new technology, dubbed real-time bidding, that enables them to target messages based on what we're doing online at that very moment. Apparently, it's not enough that ads for everything from CDs to cosmetic surgery are now generated according to our recent Internet searches, Facebook postings, and even the content of our email. Now, if you make an online purchase of, say, a golf club, within milliseconds companies can buy online ad space from Google and other search engines to pitch you golf balls or golf vacations. The technology, Google's Neal Mohan tells The New York Times, "delivers on the promise of precise optimization."

Personally, I'm not sure I want to be precisely optimized. Then again, maybe it's better than all the imprecise optimization that goes on in the nonvirtual world. According to a recent study, every day, the average American is exposed to some 3,000 commercial messages, subtle and otherwise. That may seem hard to believe, until you remember that ads zoom past us on busses; greet us at the gas pump, in elevators, and at urinals; are stamped on eggs and other products we take home; have infiltrated movies and TV shows in the form of product placements; and, thanks to naming rights, have co-opted the identities of major sports stadiums and even school gymnasiums. If this all leaves you feeling a bit queasy, consider this: "Airlines have even sold ads on motion-sickness bags." - Eric Effron, The Week

Okay, so what did we learn here? Mainly that cloud computing programs, such as Google's Gmail program, can scan your email messages to deliver relevant online ads to you (doesn't sound like a good thing). We also learned more about contextual-based advertising (could possibly be a good thing if it ever gets here). The thing to keep in mind is protecting your privacy and limiting your use of too many online services. Read up about your digital footprint and see my shocking previous post on Google and privacy issues here.
B4N,
Erin



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