announced that it will now let you decide which ads you want to see as you surf the web by allowing you to create a profile of your interests. Thanks to Google's new Ads Preferences manager, you can now add your own interests, or wait for Google to customize them automatically based on your browsing habits. Fearing a backlash from privacy advocates, Google also provides users with a number of ways to opt out from this "interest based advertising."Google just
Google, of course, made its fortune by matching ads to the content of a page, but now, Google will go a step further and also take your own interests into account when it decides which ads to show. Theoretically, this should make the ads more relevant and - in return - make Google and its publishing partners more money.
In order to keep track of your activities, Google will set a persistent cookie on your system, though the company goes out of its way to say that it is doing so in the most transparent way possible and is giving users the option to control their settings. Google also made a plugin for all the major browsers available that makes sure that Google will continue to respect your opt-out decision even after you delete the cookie. Yahoo, it should be noted, also offers users a similar option to opt out of its customized ads.
Most importantly, though, this represents a major shift in Google's advertising strategy, especially because it now also features behavioral advertising, which will target ads to you based on sites you visited previously.
Both privacy advocates and government representatives have long been suspicious of the privacy implications of behavioral ads. Just last month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission released a report (PDF) with a number of recommendations for how the industry could self-regulate itself, but for some, these measures don't go far enough to ensure that users' privacy rights are respected.
Overall, Google seems to go beyond the FTC's recommendations to ensure its customers' privacy - and they are definitely not the first company to implement behavioral advertising - but given the size and scope of the personal information that Google already stores, we can't help but feel slightly queasy about this.