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Retargeting Ads Stalk You For Weeks After You Shop 344

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the oh-no-that's-not-creapy dept.
eldavojohn writes "The New York Times is reporting on a new kind of web ad that takes products you were looking at purchasing on one site and continually advertising them in front of you at subsequent sites. After looking at shoes at Zappos, a mother in Montreal noticed the shoes followed her: 'For days or weeks, every site I went to seemed to be showing me ads for those shoes. It is a pretty clever marketing tool. But it's a little creepy, especially if you don't know what's going on.' The spreading ploy is called 'retargeting ads' and really are just a good demonstration of how an old technology (all they use are leftover browser cookies) are truly invasive and privacy violating. Opponents are clamoring for government regulation to protect the consumer and one writer mentioned a consumer 'do not track' list — adding that retailers really show little fear of turning off customers with their invasion."
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Retargeting Ads Stalk You For Weeks After You Shop

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  • by mutube (981006) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:39AM (#33414308) Homepage

    So... You look at something, decide you *don't* want to buy it... and then they continue to advertise it to you in case what? You change your mind?

    ????

    Profit

    • EVEN sillier (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:44AM (#33414362) Journal

      So I look at a product, BUY it, then am constantly targeted with ads urging me to buy it.

      WTF?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        For certain products, that makes absolute sense. Take, for example, network-attached storage devices. If you bought one, you might buy others.

    • by sammy baby (14909) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:47AM (#33414386) Journal

      For certain items and types of purchases, it makes sense. Maybe I'm looking at purchasing a new TV, then decide to hold off for a bit. But because I happened to browse for one on Overstock.com, I might keep seeing ads for it everyplace that Overstock runs ads. In this case, it makes sense: I was about to make something of an impulse buy, and after seeing the ad repeatedly, I may be induced to do go through with it later.

      But in other cases, it's annoying as hell and makes no sense at all. I'm in the middle of renovating my house, and was recently looking at ceiling fans and vessel sinks online. Now I can't click on a site without seeing ads for sinks and fans, despite the fact that I made my selection and purchased them weeks ago.

      • by Moryath (553296)

        That still doesn't explain why those fucking X10 Camera pop-up ads were stalking me seemingly EVERYWHERE.

        Or why now it's those fucking Netflix popunders. I swear to god, if I ever meet someone from Netflix's marketing department, they better have a good explanation...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Viperpete (1261530)

        The circumstances in which I have been annoyed have been when I made online purchases for my 4 and 10 year old nieces and now constantly see ads for that demographic which as a 36 year old male with no children, I find tiresome. Also, every time one of my home user IT customers needs a new piece of equipment and I do the research for them forever after I see ads for stuff I already have or never want.

        Since I do much more research and pricing of stuff for other people, I always end up seeing ads for demogra

      • by tverbeek (457094) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:25AM (#33414760) Homepage

        I find it a bit amusing. A couple months ago I ordered a pizza online from Pizza Shack. For the next few weeks I kept seeing adverts for Pizza Shack everywhere, including my own GoogleAd-using site.* Last month I had a coupon for Papa Fred's so I ordered one from them. The pizza adverts suddenly changed to Papa Fred's. This weekend I looked up the phone number of my local MahJong franchise (which doesn't take online orders). Guess whose banner advert I'm seeing in the window next to this one....

        *This is a little frustrating because I'd rather see the adverts that my visitors are seeing, to give me a sense of their experience on the site... I know, I know... that's missing the point of targeted advertising.

    • by Hadlock (143607)

      I had something similar happen recently. I as looking at buying a sailboat, but I'd need a trailer hitch to haul it to and from the lake (I live inland), so of course I googled "trailer hitch" to compare the local hitch installer vs a bolt on model over the internet. This was in June. I am still getting google ads for "ehitch.com" about trailer hitches every time I visit wunderground.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        Heh, I just searched for "trailer hitch" on google, even clicked on the sponsored link (went to alibaba). So far I still get ads for hotels from agoda.com on wunderground. I had to use google chrome to see the ads. Normally I use firefox + adblock plus and don't see any ads.

        Not tempted to turn on ads all the time ;).
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Hadlock (143607)

          Heh, I just clicked on the link for your reply in my email, even clicked on the parent link (went to my post) but it didn't come up. I had to use Firefox to see your post. Normally I use chrome + "smug adblock user post" blocker and don't see posts about how cool adblock is.
           
          Not tempted to turn on smug adblock users blocker all the time ;).

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's worse than that. I have been getting google ads in my POSTS to various forums, including slashdot!

        Slightly off-topic, but have you considered getting a trailer hitch at ehitch.com? I understand you can get a great deal there.

    • No, more like:

      "So...You look at something, decide you *don't* want to buy it... and then they continue to show you different messages that might be more relevant to your purchasing needs in case you change your mind."

      Look, this isn't a magic bullet. It can't make you magically change your mind if you are determined not to buy. But looking at this statistically, retargeting has a MAJOR impact on conversion rates that cannot be ignored by any online marketer. For a large percentage of people--this works.

    • I get ads for stuff I already bought. And when I notice the price is lower, that makes it worse. I get ads for stuff I have no intention of buying. Just by doing a search of several items to do some comparison shopping, for weeks I get ads of the stuff I rated crap! Its like a big sign saying "Hey we're tracking your every move. !" Makes me want to search for guns, ammo and body bags! When the FBI & ATF show up I'll know Big Brother has officially arrived.
    • How bout setting your browser to clear cookies, run ABP and no script, and never see any ads? Works fine for me.
    • Works well for me. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by netsavior (627338)
      I buy computers on overstock.com very often...they have corporate small form factor desktops they are very stable and very cheap: ~ $150 for a P4 3.0 and come with a licensed copy of XP so it really is right for gifting PCs to kids and tech-illiterates in my life... I look at these PCs probably 4x a month to see if one is on deep clearance, but now I don't have to... since half the sites I go to, they conveniently show me the current price of the PCs I care about in the form of a personalized overstock bann
  • creepy. but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:40AM (#33414310) Homepage

    I agree it's creepy, but Opponents are clamoring for government regulation to protect the consumer bothers me a bit. Really, I'm not at all sure that the government should be regulating in the internet at this picky level of detail.

    • Re:creepy. but (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:47AM (#33414384)

      I'm not at all sure that the government should be regulating in the internet at this picky level of detail.

      Consumers have no technical way to protect themselves. Block cookies and there are a thousand other ways to track them (web bugs, LSO cookies, etc. etc.). Block those and the vendors will find another solution.

      The only solution is legal: Give consumers legal authority to stop vendors from tracking them, and penalties if that's violated.

      We've all been trained to memorize the meme that government regulation is bad. Fine if you want to believe it, and sometimes the meme is true, but sometimes, bad or not, the regulation is worse than the alternative.

      • Consumers have no technical way to protect themselves.

        Adblock/host-file

        sure that doesnt eliminate the tracking, but at the very least you arent haunted by that sextoy you considered buying for the next few weeks..

      • by mldi (1598123)

        I'm not at all sure that the government should be regulating in the internet at this picky level of detail.

        Consumers have no technical way to protect themselves. Block cookies and there are a thousand other ways to track them (web bugs, LSO cookies, etc. etc.). Block those and the vendors will find another solution.

        The only solution is legal: Give consumers legal authority to stop vendors from tracking them, and penalties if that's violated.

        We've all been trained to memorize the meme that government regulation is bad. Fine if you want to believe it, and sometimes the meme is true, but sometimes, bad or not, the regulation is worse than the alternative.

        Two words: ad blockers.

        • by Korin43 (881732)

          Two words: ad blockers.

          Seriously. The comments on this article were really confusing to me. Ads? Popups? Are people still living in the 90's? Adblock Plus has been out since 2006; I don't even know when the original Adblock was made. I hadn't noticed any of the problems in the article because I never see any ads..

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Sporkinum (655143)

            I know I am a bad citizen, but since I adblock, DVR tv and skip commercials, I spend way less money. If you don't see they shiny, you aren't tempted to buy it.
            I blame the recession on Tivos and adblockers. ;)

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by green1 (322787)

              Actually, I think the fact that I never see commercials on TV, or ads online might cause me to be MORE likely to buy things.

              I have never bought something based on seeing an ad, however when I see a particularly annoying ad I DO make a note not to buy anything from that particular company. So while in the absence of ads I base my purchasing decisions solely on my own requirements and the merits of the product itself, when I have seen advertising I also include the annoying nature of the company's marketing d

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by mldi (1598123)
                Head-On! Apply directly to forehead! Head-On! Head-On! Head-On! Apply to forehead! Head-On!

                Sorry. That's the first ad that came to mind that was so annoying I actually cringe when I see it in real life. It upholds your point.

                To add to the discussion, if I make a purchase of anything over $15-$20, I probably do at least a little bit of research on it first. If that's an audio CD, it's probably just a few general reviews. The more expensive the item the more research (TV hunting literally took 6 weeks)
      • by hsmith (818216)
        Yes they do, there are a plethora of things you can do to protect yourself. Lets stop dumbing everything down because grandpa doesn't know how to use his PC.
      • Re:creepy. but (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Mr2cents (323101) on Monday August 30, 2010 @11:14AM (#33415322)

        Yes. This will work because the internet is completely situated in one country. Also, legislation (and enforcement of -) doesn't cost a thing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by scot4875 (542869)

          This isn't some sort of anti-piracy legislation, where Allofmp3.com or the Pirate Bay can just move their servers if needed.

          These are real companies, selling real stuff, with real distributors and the vast majority will have a physical presence in the US. If they want to continue to do business in the US, they would need to follow the rules, just like everyone else.

          Your point about costs still stands, but overall I see nothing wrong with putting tools in the hands of the public to force these invasive assh

    • Re:creepy. but (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:59AM (#33414494) Journal

      I'm not at all sure that the government should be regulating in the internet at this picky level of detail.

      I think people should not be haunted with ads by any technique. So this is not nitpicking, it is just regulation of how much privacy invading is allowed. And in my opinion this kind of automated man-hunt should be forbidden.

      • > I think people should not be haunted with ads by any technique.

        No one has to see any ads at all.

      • I think people should not be haunted with ads by any technique. So this is not nitpicking, it is just regulation of how much privacy invading is allowed. And in my opinion this kind of automated man-hunt should be forbidden.

        But the alternative is being "haunted" with ads that are completely unrelated to anything you are interested in. Relevancy actually turns ads from an annoyance to being potentially useful.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maxwell demon (590494)

          Well, I don't have problems with ads which are selected based on the content of the page I'm looking at (assuming it's not annoying in any other way; unfortunately so many ads are that I've given up manual ad blocking and use AdBlock Plus to automatically block all ads). Note that the content of the page is most likely interesting for me (otherwise I probably wouldn't look at it). If advertisers would stop trying to track me and would stop making ads annoying (and sites would stop putting ads in the middle

    • Re:creepy. but (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Luckyo (1726890) on Monday August 30, 2010 @11:51AM (#33415798)

      You're afraid of government protecting you from this sort of behaviour more then you are afraid of potential misuse of this kind informational centralization and sharing by private sector companies?
      Most people would call that tinfoil, because that's hip and fashionable, just like most anti-government pro private sector rhetoric. Most sensible people would call that either "clueless" or "stupid". Seriously, which one has happened more often, and who has screwed you over more in the last couple of decades?

      Indeed. Common sense is a bitch when it runs counter to what mass media likes to rave about, isn't it?

  • Adblock (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If you just use adblock this isn't a problem ...

  • If I just bought something, why would they think I'm going to buy it again? If it was a perishable product or one that is periodically used up, that's understandable, but good shoes generally last at least a year or so.

    • A year is all you get? I have shoes that have lasted me over five years.
      • Pair of Sperry topsiders, bought and worn once or twice a week since purchased. Bought at age 20. I am now 41 and wore them yesterday.Keep them clean, keep them polished and oiled occasionally and they last forever it seems. Have a leather Brooks riding jacket that I bought at 17. Still have it too. Little worse for wear as the leather flexes much more than shoes, but still wearable and still fits. As the old saw goes, buy quality and pay more, but it lasts longer and is cheaper over time. Problem is today,
    • Re:Silly (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BobMcD (601576) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:52AM (#33414434)

      If I just bought something, why would they think I'm going to buy it again? If it was a perishable product or one that is periodically used up, that's understandable, but good shoes generally last at least a year or so.

      I prefer it, actually, to the approach used by television. There must not be a lot of brand loyalty in feminine hygiene products, but I'm fairly certain that they're wasting their ad dollars trying to woo me.

      Ads for things I have bought is one step closer to ads for things I might actually buy, and is a step away from ads that I'd rather not even think about.

      Therefore - good thing.

      Besides, if you've already been to the site and made your decision, what's the harm, exactly?

  • Anti-advertising... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chiark (36404) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:43AM (#33414348) Homepage Journal
    I booked a ferry crossing from the UK to France through Brittany Ferries' website, and since then I've often been presented with adverts for Brittany Ferries. It is actually putting me off, and has made me install Adblock plus. I don't mind adverts: I know that they're needed to try and monetise this crazy thing. What I do object to is being stalked by an advert for something that I've already bought the product for! So, well done, that's me now out of the internet advertising audience. I suspect I'm not the only one who has been pushed over the edge by this...
    • by wagadog (545179) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:50AM (#33414410) Journal

      and, yet, they've gotten your attention sufficiently to get you to repeat their name! No such thing as bad publicity!

      And...dare I say it to a chiark? You are like putty in their hands. ssh into their site next time. :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by captainpanic (1173915)

      Interesting to see how intrusive advertisements actually accomplish the exact opposite: a certain hatred against the company behind it...

      I have similar experiences - some types of advertisement are just too annoying, and I will make an effort never to buy anything from that company ever again. (And I have a longer memory than the internet itself).

      It all makes me wonder what kind of people can be digitally bullied into buying something online.

      • by dyingtolive (1393037) <brad,arnett&notforhire,org> on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:22AM (#33414714)
        Frankly, advertisers don't care. They've gotten reaction out of you such that you remember the names of those companies, and will for the rest of your life. It doesn't matter if you're swearing off their products, so long as you can't forget their brand. This is the ape-shit bananas mentality that goes into advertisement. That's why you don't see effective advertising, but just "fire and forget" advertising that focuses on getting the name out there as much as possible.

        Source: Marketing Ex-girlfriend.
      • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:45AM (#33415016)

        Interesting to see how intrusive advertisements actually accomplish the exact opposite: a certain hatred against the company behind it...

        I have similar experiences - some types of advertisement are just too annoying, and I will make an effort never to buy anything from that company ever again. (And I have a longer memory than the internet itself).

        It all makes me wonder what kind of people can be digitally bullied into buying something online.

        The problem is one of metrics. Generally it's not the actual advertiser that has set up a system to generate and serve ads, they just pay another company for the service. So there's a disconnect between the people receiving (and being irritated by) the advertisements, and the company actually providing the goods and services. Ideally, the vendor would check up on what their flunkies are doing: maybe then they'd say, "Hey, enough of that, you're pissing off potential customers!" But odds are the ad company just returns some simple stats on number of ads served and where, and that vendor company just says, 'Good job." Personally, I think they've been sold a bill of goods: this might work in the short term but eventually people will either a. block the things or b. simply tune them out. That's what I do anyways, on both counts.

        People who buy this kind of advertising need to be more aware of the effect it is having on customers (and potential customers.) The "no such thing as bad publicity" mantra may be true in some circles, but when it comes to online advertising it's a big negative, since most people are predisposed to dislike such ads anyway. You have to strike a balance when it comes to advertising. Television, by and large, has gone overboard: they're so damn commercial-laden now that I'd rather torrent commercial-free episodes of my favorite shows even though I'm paying AT&T for the privilege (yeah, I can commercial-skip with the DVR, but I like to just hit "play" and forget about it, plus which their WinCE-based DVR software is decidedly flaky.) I also find that it's a lot easier to become immersed in the storyline if I'm not dealing with constant interruptions.

        A lot of cable channels are acting like this is still old-time broadcast television, where the user had no ability to record or skip anything, and at best could just turn down the volume on a commercial. Those days are gone: I pay to watch these shows, and I really couldn't care less about someone's ad revenue especially when it ruins the experience for me. When it comes to the Web, I'll tolerate ads (even though I will never, as a matter of principle, buy anything from one of them) until they start to really get on my nerves. Then my eyeballs will disappear off your radar just like that.

        Google appears to understand this balance and has been phenomenally successful because of it: their ads are simple and unobtrusive, and their service is worth the trade-off. Push it too far, however, and people will seek out ways to avoid viewing them: the tools are there. This user-tracking business sounds like one of those times, if the reaction of people here on Slashdot is any indication.

    • Let's change the scenario a bit. What if you regularly used that ferry and the retargeting ad you were shown was for a monthly pass discount or something. Would that possibly be of value then?

      Don't cast it off as bad just because its not relevant to you in that particular instance. Its just a tool and only as good or bad as the implementation and in this instance the advertiser needs to change things significantly.

    • I booked a ferry crossing from the UK to France through Brittany Ferries' website, and since then I've often been presented with adverts for Brittany Ferries

      Just wait until they re-sell your purchasing preferences data, and you start getting stalked by "Britain Fairies - Satisfying All Your Pooftah Needs" adverts...

  • Yes. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Securityemo (1407943) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:44AM (#33414356) Journal
    The primary use (for the user) of cookies are session cookies. If it wasn't for session cookies, I would just disable them. Maybe you could add a "whitelist this site for cookies y/n?" query right after "do you want to save the password for this site"?
    • Firefox has a "Preserve favorites data" option in its Ctrl+Shift+Del dialog. Sadly, it doesn't seem to work all that well, routinely deleting cookies for favorites anyways.
      • The advertisements are a recent development - if it becomes more common, the cure will also become more reliable.

        The technological cure against stupid ads is bettre than a new law.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wannabgeek (323414)

      There is an addon for Firefox CookieMonster [mozilla.org] which does exactly that.

    • Maybe you could add a "whitelist this site for cookies y/n?" query right after "do you want to save the password for this site"?

      CookieCuller [mozilla.org] for Firefox does exactly that. You can white-list cookies for sites you trust and the rest of them are flushed every time you close your browser.

  • Yes, some sites near and dear and it's really annoying when it's the stuff I BOUGHT. Because it's stupid.

  • Yeah, I'm more than a little tired of seeing Universal Studios ads since we already went on vacation and I'm not going to buy any more tickets anytime soon.

    -l

  • Not that scary (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:55AM (#33414460) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I manage paid search campaigns for a living. This is really not that big a deal. At its basest level this checks whether you visited a given page (usually a conversion event) and shows you an ad based on that. Reality is people like them because they boost conversion rates majorly. And every provider just about uses them, including Google. Don't like? Adblock ftw.
    • Re: Not that scary (Score:4, Informative)

      by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:08AM (#33414562) Homepage
      And just to add (since I typed that last bit from my phone on the train)...

      This has been around for a while. It is picking up steam now of course because people are getting more advanced in their advertising. But at the end of the day this is what a lot of people on /. have asked for in the past...less irrelevant ads that bug the crap out of them. Well, you got your wish. These are targeted based on your actions and thus will be of more interest to you. The people who decide they don't want ads AT ALL have likely already blocked them in some manner, and thus should not be weighing in on this discussion to just gripe about something that no longer applies to them.

      Also, for all you people who love receiving Amazon's emails with suggested products for you to buy--guess what? This is the display advertising equivalent. And I can't stress enough how easy this is to foil. Don't like? Block ads, or just wipe cookies when your browser closes as most of these systems are cookie-based in their tracking and the ones that use Flash zombie cookies are getting sued to hell in a handbasket now.

    • Re: Not that scary (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cain (14472) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:10AM (#33414580) Journal

      people like them because they boost conversion rates majorly...

      *People* don't like them - advertisers and marketing scum like them.

      Conversion Rates [wikipedia.org]: "In internet marketing, conversion rate is the ratio of visitors who convert casual content views or website visits into desired actions based on subtle or direct requests from marketers, advertisers, and content creators. ..."

      Blech. I am not a number! I am a free man! Adblock FTW, indeed.

      • Wow, marketing scum? You don't have a bone to pick or anything...

        Not all marketers are deceptive, unethical people, just like you can't generalize any profession.

        And you believe everything you read on wikipedia? That definition is flat out wrong if you ask any marketer. A conversion in its basest definition is a desired event occurring. Conversion rate is simply the number of views of the event it takes to get someone to complete it. Period. Whether the advertiser does it in a creepy/stalking manne

        • Re: Not that scary (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:37AM (#33414910)

          Not all marketers are deceptive, unethical people, just like you can't generalize any profession.

          in my 30 years in the software field, I never once met a sales/marketing guy you could trust. "shake hands and you have to count your fingers" is the usual sentiment felt after dealing with such people.

          if you could 'do' you would have. because you can't, you 'sell'. we know that; and yes, we do judge you for it; and not in a good way, either.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sjames (1099)

          It doesn't prove that they LIKE it, just that it works. There is a difference.

      • Re: Not that scary (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:34AM (#33414878)

        I hate the very concept of this phrase (never heard 'CR' used before and I feel that much more dirty for knowing what it means, now).

        there really are 2 kinds of people in the world. those that add value to the world via their creativity and talents; and then all the rest, comprised mainly of salesman, marketeers and politicians.

        yes, there is an inherent disconnect between those 2 groups.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987)
      Reality is people like them because they boost conversion rates majorly.

      'people' like them? No...advertisers and marketers like them. "People" don't care about boosted conversion rates.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As it turns out, boosted conversion rates mean that yes, people do "like" them, because they click on them.

        It's frustrating to see people get angered by advertising techniques when the only reason for them (animated ads, retargeted ads, et cetera) is that *they work*. We wouldn't use them if they didn't. The advertisers aren't to blame -- it's the consumer behavior that drives that ad format.

        • some people click on them. usually feeble old grannies, young kids who don't know (yet) any better and imbeciles who will never learn and the odd republican here and there.

          great 'audience' you advertisers got there. real cream of the crop of humanity.

          anyone with a few wits left has installed all the usual blockers. what you are left with is the dregs. you do realize that, right?

          • Re: Not that scary (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Monday August 30, 2010 @11:47AM (#33415732) Homepage

            "some people click on them. usually feeble old grannies, young kids who don't know (yet) any better and imbeciles who will never learn and the odd republican here and there."

            What about all your fellow slashdotters? You realize this site survives because of ads right? SOMEBODY must be clicking on those ads about servers, geek toys, etc.

            And what about ads on sites like Ars Technica, or any industry website? Are those people all feeble old grannies and young kids who don't know any better? Also, what does someone's political affiliation have to do with anything?

            Man, when /. posts a story on advertising all the whackos come out of the woodwork.

    • by esme (17526)

      This is really not that big a deal.

      That's where you're wrong.

      I already use adblock, and generally go to great lengths to remove as much advertising from my life as I can. So I'm already lost to you. I've known for years that you've been tracking people, selling the data to everyone, etc.

      But this is so obvious that even casual users have noticed. The New York Times is running a big story on it. I really think that once everyone knows how sleazy and invasive the advertisers' practices are, revolt and regu

      • First off, I don't sell your data to anyone except my Client--who legally has a right to that data once you fill out their form and give it to them. If you aren't providing personally identifiable info, we're not collecting it. We do collect anonymous usage data to better inform our decisions though.

        Now, to the meat of your point...you say that even casual users have noticed but that the NYT is running a big story on it. Occam's Razor...which is more likely? That average users wised up and are now revol

    • This is really not that big a deal.

      -- Muhammad_Saeed_al-Sahhaf

    • PEOPLE like them?

      which people?

      oh you mean your cronies, your web-buddies who do this shit for a living. those 'people'.

      guess what: we don't care what your people like. WE don't like your ads (in general) and will block them. always and forever.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lord_Dweomer (648696)
        I was actually referring to the people that click them and then buy more stuff--but its cute how you speak for everybody in the world, I'm sure they appreciate that.

        Look, we wouldn't be using them if they weren't effective, and they wouldn't be effective if everybody hated them with as much baseless passion as you do. So guess who's wrong?

    • by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Monday August 30, 2010 @11:21AM (#33415398) Homepage Journal

      Don't like? Adblock ftw.

      Definitely. Whenever I see /. stories like this one, I feel kind of left out. Sort of like the kid whose parents don't let him watch TV, when the other kids are talking about their favorite shows.

  • by capedgirardeau (531367) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:00AM (#33414500)

    I have found using Ghostery added on to FireFox has cut down on a lot of this sort of cross site tracking for me.

    http://www.ghostery.com/ [ghostery.com]

  • LG phones do this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brandee07 (964634) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:04AM (#33414524)

    I once bought an out-of-contract LG phone, whose screen broke a week after purchase. No, I didn't drop it. Neither AT&T nor LG would repair/replace it, so I went online and searched around and found that this model phone (the Neon) had a notoriously fragile screen, and that no one was able to get repairs for it, so I ended up chucking my useless $80 hunk of plastic in the trash.

    After this twenty minutes of googling, I was plagued by LG Neon ads for weeks. Every third or fourth website I visited had an ad trying to sell me the very phone that broke on me. It made me more and more angry every time I saw it. Without the constant reminder of my wasted money, I may have eventually forgotten about it, but now I will never, ever purchase anything by LG again, and I tell people who are looking for a new phone to get something - anything - else.

  • I don't have children. All I tried to do was connect an Ebola outbreak to a daycare facility, and, now I'm being staked by some kid all across the internet.

  • 1) It is quite a long story, for the Times, yet it doesn't mention that you can use things like disable cookies and ad blocker 2) if you have a subscription to the Times (I think it is requried to see the actual story) go on line and make a comment; tell people, specifically where they can go to learn about online privacy (to bad firefox has gotten worse in the privacy gui in every version since 2.0)
  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:12AM (#33414594)

    What I find exceedingly obnoxious is when I do purchase something and for weeks afterwards I'll get promotions for similar things, if not the same exact altogether.

    I'm curious to know how effective this sort of thing actually is. All those people in the marketing department and consultants will desperately insist it works. But given my own experiences and observations it just creates information overload and the vast majority of people end up ignoring most of what they say. Unfortunately, the very people who do marketing are the ones also supplying the statistics on whether it has been effective or not. They're not going to furnish information that renders them inessential. So they only disclose what seems to work and make some rather absurd suppositions.

    There's no such thing as too much advertising to these guys. Expect things to get even more invasive.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Advertising isn't done by a bunch of people who guess at what works -- we have hard numbers that show that in the short term, this type of advertisement is incredibly effective. We don't make the numbers up, either (in fact, since it's our customers that bring the data on how many people click through the ads/buy the product/et cetera, we wouldn't even have the opportunity to do so).

      Now, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are long-term consequences that we don't really understand, but... that's not wh

  • by shadowrat (1069614) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:14AM (#33414616)
    I've noticed that almost everywhere i keep seeing ads for McDonald's. They are on websites that i go to. They are on tv. They are on the radio. I think i heard one on Pandora. They are even printed on billboards on the interstate through nebraska when i drive through there. That's pretty creepy that they KNOW i'm coming through nebraska and manage to print a billboard just for me.

    What i don't get is i don't even like McDonald's. I hardly ever go there, yet they keep showing me all these ads. weird.
  • solution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jridley (9305) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:16AM (#33414626)

    Firefox with noscript and CsFire, and don't save cookies.

    When even this fails, I contemplate running Portable Firefox and having it reload from a scratch image every time I start it up.

  • by beadfulthings (975812) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:22AM (#33414716) Journal

    I don't know of any online retailers where you can shop without getting a cookie or two to handle your shopping cart and sundries--what they like to call your "overall shopping experience." I was appalled when Overstock.com began following me--seemingly everywhere. They showed up at local and national news sites, a couple of humor sites--enough to make me feel as though I was being tailed in some kind of poorly done spy movie. And they always showed particular, specific items I'd been looking at. Adblock didn't seem to make a difference. I was ticked enough that when they sent me a "survey," I told them off. That resulted in two e-mails and a phone call to my husband, whose credit card I used in making the small purchase I did make. The gist of the communications was that they really wanted me to think this was "normal" and that "all websites" do it. Cleaning out my cookies helped with the immediate persecution complex, and installing and browsing with Ghostery (ghostery.com) in tandem with Adblock in my Firefox seems to have eliminated the problem for any other sites that are doing it. The solution, of course, is just not to shop at places that offend you and to tell them why you're taking your business elsewhere.

  • From the article:

    But it's a little creepy, especially if you don't know what's going on.'

    I think it's even creepier when you do know what's "going on".

  • Stop looking (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smittyman (466522) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:26AM (#33414764)

    Since Firefox and Adblock (/ghostery) has been around i wonder why people still spent all the energy on adds. As long as you look, click, discuss, hate, love them they have the desired effect and the money flows. Just /ignore / block as Spam is here to stay.

    If a site is too intrusive there are most likely 10-100 alternatives to visit. Rather spend my time on that.

    Enjoy this not so intrusive /. website where we can even turn the spam off (hear hear! :)

  • Surely someone must have patented this "business method" or the software used to enable it. Can't the Trolls do something "right" for a change, and come out with the lawsuits to stop this silly practice?

  • New != New (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RobTerrell (139316) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:47AM (#33415038) Homepage

    I don't want to sound like an argle-fargling old timer with an onion on my belt, but for christ's sake, since when is "new to a montreal mother" new for /. ? Ad retargetting has been around for YEARS.

    Small advertisers in particular love it, because it makes them look huge: "Hey, wow, these guys advertise on CNN.com!" Yep, they do! Only for you at this particular moment in time, but they do.

  • by aero2600-5 (797736) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:53AM (#33415090)

    Full disclosure: I work for a company that uses these types of ads.

    We use Akamai to serve up these kinds of ads. Believe it or not, most internet traffic goes through Akamai at some point, so when they decide to cookie you, they can find you just about anywhere. From the advertiser's point of view, it makes sense. Only between 2% and 5% of visits result in sales. So, by hitting you with these ads, they're trying to get a second chance at that business.

    But if the question whether is whether I'd rather see an ad for some random diet that doesn't work, or some other scam, or to see an ad for a website that I willingly chose to go to, I'll take the latter any day.

    As for the particular case of that woman and the pair of shoes, I wouldn't advertise for a particular pair of shoes, but then again, being a shoe company, they may have a better insight into the shopping mind of a woman.

    Just be glad that these ads are being served up based on some fact. The fact that you visited that site previously. I think that's better than them trying to build a profile of me based on sites I've visited, and then trying to sell me running gear or viagra.

    ~Aero2600

  • by jackpot777 (1159971) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:55AM (#33415120)
    And I don't just think it's products. The first time I noticed it was this spring. My wife and I had a long weekend in Boston, and for weeks afterwards I was receiving banner ads to buy Red Sox tickets (as a Yankees fan, ain't happening if they're not there). We didn't reserve the hotel room online, but we did do a lot of online tourism thanks to Google Maps StreetView. More recently, I was looking for a backup battery for my iPhone. An external portable charger that could top up the 'phone and then rechange itself either by wall socket or 12v in-car. My Google Desktop shows me I looked at TheNerds.net at a few, and I eventually bought the Griffin PowerJolt Reserve at Target. Every ad for TheNerds I've seen since has the PowerJolt on it. OK already, it's good, I just didn't buy it from you!
  • happens on slashdot (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mjwalshe (1680392) on Monday August 30, 2010 @11:03AM (#33415212)
    a while back I was up for a job with an online womens wear company Asos - I checked out there site to get a feel for what they did and for several weeks I got ads for high heels and leggings on slashdot which was a bit jaring the first time it happened.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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