Privacy rights are one of the main factors standing in the way of location-based services becoming mainstream. Mainstream LBS will eventually happen, believe me, but privacy and the lack of consumer education surrounding it is definitely slowing things down.
This morning we talked about Facebook’s new location and language-based advertising. While Facebook has had a number of user revolts surrounding privacy and the use of personal information, users were noticeably silent this time despite the fact this is yet another example. This could be why Facebook decided to change user profile designs at the same time. A diversion. Google hasn’t had as much luck.
Another company constantly under scrutiny for its use of our search data, Google also debuted a new form of advertising yesterday. Its AdSense ads have always been displayed based on keyword searches or website content. For instance, on our page you’ll see the AdSense ads are for businesses that offer products and services related to our content. Now Google has debuted interest-based advertising.
(Image Credit: Radar–by the way, Cory Doctorow also has a funny article here describing a world in which Google controls your life.)
Because not all searches provide enough information for AdSense to deliver truly contextual ads, AdSense ads will now serve ads based on your search and web browsing history on such occasions. Google has been very transparent about what its doing, in my opinion. A blog post describing the changes and what they mean was posted, but not all of us read Google’s blogs. Now there are worried web users everywhere wondering when Sergey Brin and Larry Page are going to be moving into their homes.
If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of most advertising-related privacy arguments. I’m of the opinion that our personal information being used by advertisers will result in ads that make our lives easier. If Google wants to use my personal information to throw better ads my way it can. If a mobile advertiser wants to use my location to throw me a heads-up about shopping deals in my immediate vicinity, hey, even better (although I hate clothes shopping–advertisers please take note!). But, despite my feelings, I am a big fan of Adbusters magazine. Not necessarily because I agree with its general point of view, but because its just so creative.
That said, here’s one for the privacy advocates. Adbusters has come up with a Greasemonkey script called Blackspot that you add as a browser plug-in. What does it do? It clicks on every single AdSense ad you come across while surfing the web. This is some creative activism, and while I don’t totally agree with the underlying ideology, it’s just to good not to mention! One more thing though–and this is probably funnier. A quick look at Adbusters source code reveals its uses Google Analytics to track your visits to its website!
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