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Beware of Google's New Personalized Ad System

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[qi:004] Google (s GOOG) is good. Not necessarily as in “the opposite of evil,” but “smooth.” The company — facing some privacy backlash here and in Europe — said today that it would allow users to select the type of ads they see in web sites and provide an opt-out for folks who don’t want Google to track their web surfing via a cookie.

Google even provides a downloadable opt-out option that will keep you opted out of Google tracking, even if you clear out your cookies. Nice. All of this is a beautiful step forward with regards to some of Google’s least invasive information tracking. Like a boyfriend bringing you a dozen roses after cheating on you, it’s a lovely gesture — but don’t let those flowers blind you to his faults. Google stands to gain quite a bit from people self-selecting their targeted interests, as advertisers might pay even more for delivering the most relevant ads to people ( I would totally participate in this if I never had to see another acai berry or belly fat ad again). Sure, some might opt out, but few people get upset about ads delivered based on information provided by cookies.

It’s Google’s other activities — such as keeping search data stored for so long and sharing some of that information with public officials — that make me cautious. The roving Street View trucks, snapping photos of people’s homes and topless sunbathers, and its plans to get into medical records storage give me pause. So yes, Google is offering consumers a choice about how it tracks your data, but behind those roses it still wants to be the repository of the world’s information and sell that out to the highest bidder.

19 Responses to “Beware of Google's New Personalized Ad System”


    yep google is taking over. I hate that streets view cam. All thier doing is striping of what personal fredoms and secretes we do have. Any one read about the big post bust in europe —- thank google — they saw his pot growing from google maps —woooo no good can come of this.

  2. Between Facebook and Google we have very little real privacy in the sense of secrecy. Both companies have a tremendous amount of information about us if we choose to use their services and even though both have privacy controls in place. Facebook already tracks users across its system and presents ads based on their preferences (even if it doesn’t do such a wonderful job at presenting truly relevant ads). Google is just joining the party.

    Unless you’re determined not to use either service, I think we are at a point where the notion of privacy as secrecy is all but a fiction and the only real control you have over your personal information is not to disclose it in the first place.

  3. I don’t know what everyone’s worked up about. In theory, it could be abused. I haven’t heard of much abuse of power coming from Google, though. In my opinion, once they do something bad, then we give them the smack-down.

    I think as long as they really give us the option whether or not to share our information with them, we can’t complain. They’re taking away some privacy, but not without our consent.

    I also found this particularly interesting- “A new tool called Ads Preferences Manager allows users to edit a selection of ‘interest categories, so users can customize which adverts they view…” (Telegraph, as reported at

  4. Sure Google bears watching. But why pick on Google, which is hardly alone in the practice of tracking your behavior. This issue requires legislation – probably a constitutional amendment. Otherwise, you are fighting a battle as with the mythical Hydra. Crush one head of the monster, and two heads form to take its place. One head is immortal and can’t be destroyed. Guess who that head belongs to? Uncle Sam. The Constitution is our only hope of controlling the threat to privacy.

  5. Like I’ve been saying for sometime now, Google has achieved what John Poindexter wanted to do for the Bush administration – he wanted to provide” total information awareness” on all Americans and others. We need to be asking Google

    “Who are their partners including 3ed and fourth parties and down the line”.

    Google owns DoubleClick and they are a partner of PayPal – so it’s just not about cookies, it’s much more detailed then is being stated. Just think about what PayPal knows about you!

  6. Stacey Higginbotham

    Vilu, the personalized ad system isn’t bad, but its improtant to note that even when it does something right, Google isn’t your friend when it comes to privacy.

  7. What’s the fuss about? You didn’t say why the personalized ad system is bad except that (1) Google wants to be the world’s information repository and (2) will sell my choice related info. Is that any different from what other contenders for the crown are dying to do?

  8. as a consumer, my ‘intent’ to spend time or money is what i am willing to pay vs. explicit subscriptions. so, this seems to be a fair trade-off. google (or whoever else is either placing/reading cookies) is mining this data and is selling the collective analytics to their customers. nothing wrong with that. their customers sell me goods and services and try and influence my ‘intent’. nothing wrong with that either unless/until i live in a cave, grow my own food, live off-grid, give up using money, cease reading, writing, communicating,…

  9. farmerwu

    You tell ’em Stacey. Everyone likes to think Google is a warm and cuddly stuffed animal, friends with everyone. Its good to be reminded that maybe they’re not so altruistic after all. Street View Vans are the black helicopters of the future.