Let’s say you’re shopping online for a dress. After browsing a few stores for the right one, you surf over to an article on your favorite news site. There, like magic, an advertisement appears for beautiful dresses you were admiring just moments ago. Isn’t it surprising? You’ve just experienced the wonder of personalized Internet advertising.
Targeted advertising has been part of the Internet experience since the late 1990s. In the early 2000s, Internet advertising got a lot smarter. Companies began using browsing habits and other data collected from users to make ads more personalized.
Today, personalized Internet advertising is widespread, and people have started to notice.
So, how do advertisers collect your information?
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When you click on a web page, your data is collected using a tiny text file called a cookie, which the site sends to your computer so it can track your movements among its pages. Marketing companies like DoubleClick, which advertise on sites across the Web, use third-party cookies to compile complete records of users’ browsing habits. This information helps them tailor advertising to specific customers.
A 2011 Pew Internet survey found that 92 percent of adults used search engines when online, so it’s no surprise that sites like Google and Yahoo! have gotten into the advertising business. They analyze search terms and user habits to place targeted advertising alongside regular search results.
When you create a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook you probably enter information about your age, education, interests, and favorite movies, music, and books. This data is also used by certain sites to show you personalized ads.
Some activists see this practice as an invasion of privacy since it relies heavily on the collection of personal information, but advertisers claim that it’s harmless. What do you think? Do you prefer being shown personalized advertisements? Let us know in the comment section below.