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The Case For Targeted Ads 290

Nofsck Ingcloo writes "CNet has published a guest column by Eric Wheeler warning the world of the evil consequences of Do Not Track. In it he makes strong (I would claim exaggerated) arguments in favor of targeted advertising. He claims the threat of political action on Do Not Track should, 'strike fear into the hearts of every company that does business online....' He speaks of compromising a $300 billion industry, which I read as being the industry composed of online advertisers and all their clients. He clearly thinks the trade off between freedom from snooping and free access to web content always favors free access. He concludes his arguments by saying, 'Taken as a whole, the potentially dire impact of Do Not Track is clear: the end of the free internet and a crippling blow to the technology industry.' He then goes on to advocate contacting legislators and the FTC in opposition to Do Not Track."
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The Case For Targeted Ads

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  • Isn't it Voluntary? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ThatsMyNick ( 2004126 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @07:04PM (#41405789)

    Isn't Do Not Track voluntary? The advertiser can choose not follow it, right? If so, what is all the fuss about?

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @07:16PM (#41405923)

    Just another shill for the investor class, bemoaning the fact that there are still things that can't be bought and sold.

  • by b4dc0d3r ( 1268512 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @07:22PM (#41405963)

    It is currently voluntary. A lot of people are pushing for it to be mandatory, which would practically chop Google's business plan off at the hips. Right now they read your mail (not the employees, but the servers), they track your searches, and if you have Android they know a lot more about you than you think. Do not track being mandatory would turn off a lot of their data gathering. And they are an advertising sales company, no matter what other products they bring to consumers. Just as with FaceBook, you are the product and your eyeballs are being sold to advertisers.

    Microsoft intends to turn DNT on by default for IE 10, and even if you don't go with Windows 8 you might get some updates for Win7, if not actually IE 10, that set DNT accordingly. Now a huge browser market, including most people people who don't know what DNT is, nor do they care, will have it disabled by default. This pits Microsoft against Google in a huge way.

    Aside from all of the other fallout that will happen by making it not just a standard, but a fine-inducing requirement, it will be essentially unenforceable in that it will be hard to prove tracking versus proper context-based targeted adverts. Pointless unenforceable laws/regulations that depend on politicians pretending to support their constituents on the small things so they can screw voters on the big things are not the way to a better internet. But that's what we're going to get when politicians get involved.

    The fuss isn't about right now, it's about looking down the road and seeing oncoming traffic. A smart person would at least pull over, and assess whether a U-turn is in order, or getting off the road, or if maybe staying the course is in fact appropriate.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @07:29PM (#41406039) Journal

    "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to the public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."
    Life-Line by Robert A. Heinlein, 1939

    If you cannot innovate; legislate.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @07:37PM (#41406123)
    ABP is mandatory; DNT is just a distracting waste of time predicated on bad ideas about what Internet advertising should be (and for that matter, what the Internet itself should be). We solved the invasive web advertisement problem long ago with ABP, just like we solved the email / Usenet spam problem with spam filtering.

    The first paragraph of TFA should be enough to know how uninformed the writer's opinion is: he pushes the idea that anonymous data is being collected, despite all the work that has shown how that data can be de-anonymized (especially when several "anonymous" databases are combined).
  • by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @08:41PM (#41406589) Homepage Journal
    You know how to code, but I doubt you know how these systems actually work, what they actually collect, or how that data is actually used in the real world

    I am one of those people who DO know how they work and what data they collect. I spent plenty of time engineering them and the subsequent delegations of production. They are just as evil as you can imagine, only more so. You may feel that you are a single point of consumer data, but your behavior changes and your habits along with them. They know this and see this, and if they can tell you are willing to spend more money, your new PC from XCompany is $39 more expensive.

    Your post is misleading, and on purpose. It may be well articulated, but the Devil is in the details
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @08:52PM (#41406653) Homepage

    Netflix and Amazon don't need tracking of casual browsers, because they have real customers. They have, legitimately, information about what you knowingly bought from them. Businesses that have real sites that sell real stuff don't really need to track browsers, just customers. Even Facebook doesn't need tracking of casual browsers, since, while they're intrusive, you clearly sign up with and log into Facebook. Google doesn't really need personalization; they were profitable just putting up ads that were relevant to the current search.

    So, really, it's the junk sites that need this. Those with Google AdSense junk ads. Most entertainment sites. Slashdot. Crap like that. Getting rid of tracking would hurt them. We might lose some of them. No big loss.

  • Re:Irony not lost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday September 20, 2012 @10:28PM (#41407165) Homepage Journal

    Do Not Track is definitely far less damaging to ad-supported sites than ad blocking. Revenue from ads served to DNT users would be lower than tracked users because the ads wouldn't be targeted, but it would be nonzero.

    One interesting aspect of DNT is that it doesn't cover tracking information gathered by the sites you visit for their own use. It covers only third-party tracking services, and only to the extent that the data is used by someone other than the first-party site. This means that Amazon can continue to track what people buy on their site. More significantly, as far as I can tell, there's nothing inherently preventing companies like Amazon from using that knowledge to serve ads based on the user's buying history on other sites, so long as they record the data only in aggregate (X site got N copies of ad Q) and do not in any way record the fact that a particular user visited the site. In that scenario, there's no tracking data being gathered according to DNT rules because all the data was gathered legitimately while the user was actually using and interacting with the (Amazon) ad network's first-party website.

    Thus, the most likely result of DNT is the erosion of nameless, faceless tracking companies like doubleclick and the rise of ad networks built around sales platforms like Amazon, search networks like Google, and maybe, *maybe* social networking sites like Facebook. This is almost inarguably a good thing, as it will not only result in much better targeting of ads, but also a clear separation between your non-commerce activities on the Internet and the sorts of ads that you see.

  • Re:Irony not lost (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sabt-pestnu ( 967671 ) on Friday September 21, 2012 @02:39AM (#41408207)

    > The real problem is that representatives *have no fucking idea what they are talking about on most subjects*.

    This is a double-edged sword.

    The one hand is that the ones that realize they don't know anything about (topic X) will turn to people they can identify as experts on (topic X) for information. Your homework task is to BE that person they turn to.

    The other hand is that the ones who think they DO know something about (topic X) may well be wrong. And thus, get it wrong. Clipper chip. Internet censorship. Authority over the content and linkages of domains. Need I go on?

    On the gripping hand, what are the implications of our representatives knowing precisely what they are talking about (for any given topic)? Such as, how did they all get that knowledge? And will they still be representing OUR interests?

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain