Friday, January 20, 2017

Behavioral Advertising - Is it a boon or a privacy nightmare?

What is Behavioral advertising?
Behavioral advertising is advertising to select users based on their browsing history or prior purchases. As an example, if you were to shop for a new car at a dealership's website yesterday. The next day you went to your news website and lo-and-behold, you see an ad from your dealership showing the exact car you were looking at.

It may seem creepy but to me personally I find this better than having to see an irrelevant advertisement. At a very high level, the ad companies state that the big data that drives such advertising does not contain personally identifiable information. However, when you aggregate all the information, it may be possible to narrow down to a single individual. What makes it scary is when this data is sold to third parties. We may not know to whom this information is sold to and how this third party uses the information. Companies like try to give you back the control of your online information and manage it. In fact, when they sell aggregated reports to a third party, you earn points and rewards if you anonymized information was used for such a report.

There are definitely benefits of customized advertisements but there are some ethical concerns of the re-purposing of your data that needs to be looked into.

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