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A “do-not-track” list?

Posted on | November 1, 2007 | No Comments

Privacy advocates are now suggesting a do not track list, from on line advertisers. Some of you might not know, advertisers use cookies, placed on your computer by their ad servers to ‘know’ what other web sites you have recently visited that serve their ads. I’ll explain more in meta form:

DuhDuh, Inc, is an ad network that enlists the help of 3000 bloggers, similar to Google Adsense and others. If you visit def.com (a blog serving DuhDuh ads) then go to xyz.com (another blog serving DuhDuh ads), DuhDuh’s ad server will know that you might be interested in def.com when you arrive at xyz.com.

Lets take a moment and review how sites that offer information and news are typically monetized:

  • Visitor reaches web site
  • Visitor reads what they came to see
  • Visitor (might) click a few more links
  • Visitor goes to find something else to do

I agree that contextual ads (all ads, really) have gotten way out of hand, however, if on-line sources hope to make funding the infrastructure that serves the free stuff a ‘good’ idea, they must serve ads to attempt to capture the last bit of attention that you wish to give them. If we want them to serve less ads, we might hope that they deliver ads that we’d actually appreciate seeing.

Do you want less, more targeted ads (that you might actually like), or do you want to pay every news site that you visit a subscription fee?

Advocates are relating this to a “Do not call” list, I fail to see the correlation between telemarketers and a few pixels on your screen.

TCP/IP is fundamentally not-so-private. Any expectation of privacy while using The Internet is complete and total mindlessness. What’s next, a list of IP’s that my web server cant log?

When you see ads its usually because you download a Javascript file from the ad network, directly from the ad network regardless of the site that you are visiting. This is the same as hitting a web page on the ad network’s site, the download is logged. Ad networks know (through simple web server logs) where you were when you downloaded the file through a code in the advertisement link.

Stopping cookie placement is not curing the problem, at all. I wish that people who lead charges like this would educate themselves (just a little) bit better on how The Internet actually works.

I don’t like marketers data mining my every move any more than the people suggesting this, however, I’m not going to resent what I can’t do much about :)

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