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Retargeting Ads Stalk You For Weeks After You Shop 344

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 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, 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 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. []

  • Opt out... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:06AM (#33414544)

    It's easy to opt out from every network offering this sort of service:

    (just remember to go there each time you clear your cookies)

  • 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.

  • by dyingtolive ( 1393037 ) <brad DOT arnett AT notforhire DOT 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 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 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 ( 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.

  • Re:Yes. (Score:2, Informative)

    by wannabgeek ( 323414 ) on Monday August 30, 2010 @10:24AM (#33414734) Journal

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

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM