Google offering behavioral targeted advertising

Google is set to start displaying advertisements today to users based on their interests, which are determined using their previous online activities. This form of advertising is known collectively as behavioral targeting, and has been adopted by most of Google’s competitors, drawing criticism from privacy advocates and some Congress members.

Google announced that it plans to offer new methods for users to protect their privacy. Notably, Google will be the first of the behavior targeting advertisers to give users the ability to view and edit the compiled information about their interests, the information used to place similar ads on their screens. Rival Yahoo gives its users the choice to opt out of “interest-based advertising”; Google is committed to provide the same service. Privacy advocates praise Google’s decision to allow users access to the information compiled regarding their interests.

As for how the technology works, Google will use a cookie, which is a small piece of text within a Web browser. The cookies have the ability to track users who visit any of the hundreds of thousands of sites that show ads through Google’s AdSense program. Google then assign those users to specific categories based on the content of the pages they view. An example of this is a user visiting real estate sites; they will be categorized as a potential homebuyer.

Google then uses the compiled and categorized information to place ads that are relevant to specific users and their interests.A potential homebuyer may see an ad about real estate not only on a real estate website,but also on an entertainment or news site that uses AdSense. These targeted advertisements are also available on YouTube, which is owned by Google.

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