Topic Summary: 

Ever visit a website looking for something, for example shoes? Then every other time you searched for something else, Clark's of Ireland, Zappos or Shoe Outlet.com shows up first in your search rankings! Some say "pretty cool... how did they do that". More and more are saying "OK, that's enough". Enter the growing area called Online Behavioral Advertising.

Many of the ads you receive on Web pages and on web searches are, believe it or not, customized just for your eyes only. Ads you see can be based on predictions about your interests generated from your visits over time and across different Web sites. ( How Behavior Ads Work)

This type of ad customization - sometimes called online behavioral or interest based advertising- works through a system of files on your computer called "cookies". Like crumbs used to document "where you have been" these cookies tell websites a lot about where you have visited, what you have searched on and what you are clicking on. Then, this pattern of interest gets documented and entered into a profile created just on your viewing habits.

Voluntary Efforts: The Industry Listens  Microsoft's  IE browser has a feature called DO NOT TRACK, turned ON by default. This feature has web based ad companies in panic mode. Many ad companies say if they can not track your usage and habits, they can't sell display ads that would be relevant. The ad companies claim that advertising as we  know it on the web would be severely impacted if a majority of consumers OPTED OUT of tracking. They go so far as to say newspapers and news sites would not be able to exist because add dollars would flow elsewhere.

Do Not Track doesn't attempt to block cookies. Instead it is a browser setting that sends a message to every website you visit saying you prefer not to be tracked. Abiding by this request is currently optional for sites and web advertising firms to obey, but it's gaining momentum with Twitter embracing it recently. Think of it like the Do Not Call List!

Yahoo Takes A Role.  Yahoo, said they would have a simple button consumers can click if they want a Tracking-Free experience. <story here>

Google Not So Hot On The Idea  As Google makes most of its revenue from ad- based activities, they are supporting the process of giving consumers the option to opt-out but not FORCE it on consumers.. "let them decide" is their suggestion.

So, if you care to, go to  http://www.aboutads.info/choices
and let the system do its magic. You can then OPT OUT of tracking by the data collectors, make a complaint or learn more about the policies.

We will keep you informed as the large players make opting out easier for the consumer.