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11 March, 2009

Google dePhormed

Google has announced that it is to introduce behavioural-targeted advertising, adopting the same tactic as Phorm.

It's not quite as bad as Phorm (what isn't?), as it's easy to opt out and stay opted out, and Google's a relatively reputable company: I'm fairly confident the opt-out will be respected.

Two criticisms, though:

  • This should be implemented on an opt-in basis, never as an opt-out. Google may choose to believe that a majority of people won't object to their online activities being profiled in order to assist targeted advertising – they may even be right – but that presumption should be implemented as a button in a prominent location on the Google website which, presumably, most people would happily click. Not the alternative: profiling everyone unless they visit an obscure page deep within the Google site, seemingly only mentioned in a blog posting.
  • The opt-out is straightforward and seemingly comprehensive but, as mentioned above, it's not as readily available as it could be. To save you a search: the initial opt-out is here, and a browser plugin (for Firefox & IE) which prevents the opt-out cookie being deleted is available here.

As a bonus, a way to opt-out of other US advertisers' targeted advertising is available from the Network Advertising Initiative.

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