August 22, 2010

Tracking Cookie Opt-Out (Behavioral Advertising)

I blog about tech stuff only very rarely, but this is something I really want to share. If you’re at all concerned about online privacy, you will want to know about the Network Advertising Initiative’s “Behavioral Advertising Opt Out Tool.” Go to it, and it will show you which advertising networks have installed tracking cookies on your computer. You can check the boxes and click through at the bottom to instruct all of those networks to opt you out of their spying, which they are legally obligated to do. Now, it is also possible to block specific sites from setting cookies on your computer using complicated settings in your browser, but this tool is easier, and lets you opt out of networks that have not found you yet.

To say something general, I would say that it is a good thing that so far we have been able to get national policies set up that allow us to opt out of privacy-compromising systems, and we have to keep doing that, but our right to opt out is meaningless unless we are actually able to figure out how to do the opting-out process, and then go and do it.

Personally, I find it hard to take seriously the claim of some that they “want to see more relevant advertising served up on [their] browsers [or wherever else].” Advertisers never know us as well as they think they do, and when they do hit close to home, it’s just spooky. I am not comfortable when the opaque networked computer that is everywhere with the soft synthetic voice knows what I had for breakfast. There is too much of a potential for power without accountability when we lose our privacy in that way.

There are other useful tech tools for privacy that readers might tell us about in the comments. This is one I like because it is so quick and easy and doesn’t require me to go through ten proxy servers, etc. Some readers may also be able to provide information about the limitations of this tool.

(Be sure to read the comments below if this interests you – Commenters have some important things to add here.)

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2 Comments »

  1. Please check out PrivacyChoice.org for more information about behavioral targeting and your options:

    http://www.privacychoice.org
    http://privacychoice.wordpress.com

    Comment by Jim — August 23, 2010 @ 10:59 am

  2. Some discussion here about the NAI opt-out tool:
    http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/node/6170

    “People were surprised and confused to learn that the NAI’s opt-out program doesn’t prevent advertisers from collecting information about you; it only prevents advertisers from serving you targeted ads. The companies still get to benefit from your information, you still have to see ads, but the ads aren’t targeted towards your preferences.”

    Comment by C. Hennesy — August 23, 2010 @ 11:29 am

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