Big Brother Google Opts For Interest-Based Advertising

I am really interested in how many people have received an email from Google introducing the launch of their ‘interest-based advertising’? According to Google;

Interest-based advertising will allow advertisers to show ads based on a user’s previous interactions with them, such as visits to advertiser website and also to reach users based on their interests (e.g. “sports enthusiast”).  To develop interest categories, we will recognize the types of web pages users visit throughout the Google content network.  As an example, if they visit a number of sports pages, we will add them to the “sports enthusiast” interest category.  To learn more about your associated account settings, please visit the AdSense Help Center at

This raises some privacy concerns as it seems that Google is taking another step towards the ‘Big Brother Is Watching You’ approach. I mean do we as users really want to be categorized depending on our surfing habits. Heck, 90% of the time I am inadvertently directed to porno sites, but does that mean that I will categorized as a pervert or a dirty old man? Then, once I am stuck into a category, does that mean that every time I visit a site, regardless of what that site is, I will be shown ads befitting my so-called depraved state?

It seems that the only way around this is to install a plugin that will allow me to modify my ‘interest’ categories or to even opt out of the system. Damn, another bloody plugin, and then one has to wonder what other information this plugin will leach from my system. As  bloggers, this ‘interest-based system’ poses another problem, as we now have to update our privacy policy to reflect the fact that our blogs are using Google’s new system, and these changes have to be made by April 8, 2009! Naturally Google can not help us with the language we use to tell people of these changes because “publisher sites and laws vary across countries, we’re unfortunately unable to suggest specific privacy policy language.” Gee, thanks so much guys. Still we can opt out altogether by;

  1. Sign in to your AdSense account.
  2. Visit your My Account tab.
  3. Go to the Account Settings page.
  4. In the Interest-based Ads Preference section, click edit.
  5. Select the button marked Do not show ads based on user interest categories and save your changes.

This does also come with a warning saying that by opting out we may be cutting our own throat by decreasing our earning potential. So, tell me my blogging friends, how will this effect you? Are you happy about it? Will you opt out? Is this another invasion of user privacy?

Edit: I’ve just this minute decided to opt out and have started a poll to see the intentions of others towards Google’s latest escapade.

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Peter Pelliccia

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This Post Has 37 Comments

  1. I think if the amount people earn form advertising goes up considerably because people are being targeted directly by their interests It will be easy to forget the annoyance.

    What I’m not sure about though is that if you spend a lot of time targeting a particular subject and aim everything on the page to getting to the top of the search engines for say “start your own home business”.

    You get to page 1 and people come flooding on to the page to get advise and spend some money on books, courses etc. When they go on your page the advise is great but the links are to something completely irrelevant to the topic on the page.

    Person A has just had a baby, so google deems their interest as baby supplies and advise, so after all that effort of getting visitor A to site to buy books on home based businesses they are interested in they get pushed baby adverts which are totally irrelevant to the topic.

    So will all your hard work on seo really be worth it?

  2. Take, as another example all those people who use niche blogs to target a particular type of traffic because the ads displayed on those pages normally pay well. With this new system it’s entirely possible that the ads that are now shown do not pay anywhere near as much!

    1. Like anything else automated the algorithms involved are VERY complicated and can NOT duplicate intelligent human decisions. I would think opting out would have no effect on your earnings UNLESS AdSense chooses to display NO ads instead of the ads it is currently displaying because you did it.

      AdSense ads are already supposed to be targeted to the subject of your pages. If someone is READING the page they are CLEARLY interested in that subject EVEN IF they have not added that interest to their ad requests. I would want those targeted ads on that page and NOT some unrelated ads for another subject that person is interested in.

      Sometimes it appears that Google believes all humans have tiny brains with VERY limited interests. If their system had a head it would be spinning trying to profile the searches I do, partially because my own are so divergent and mostly because I research things for others too.

      When Google started displaying ads based on our latest searches all kinds of junk we would NEVER be interested in showed up instead of the results we were seeking. I predict the same will happen here.

      When WILL the Social Networking sites start using tagging so they can offer subject-specific pages? Then they will finally be able to compete with Google, offer users what is most important (easy ways to find what they’re interested in), and have their OWN Golden Goose.

      More details on that in my blog. Search for monetization. More details on the dangers of data mining and the erosion of our privacy in the privacy data mining category. I linked the best post on that subject in the main link to this comment.

      InternetStrategist´s Last blog post..REVIEW: Mastering Google Analytics – Easy to Understand FREE eCourse

      1. Hey IS, I wish I could ad something to that but I think that you have said it all. :tongue_wink_ee:

  3. I guess it will be a month of trial and error to see if it works, or wait to hear from others experiences first, which may be the wisest course of action.

  4. I reckon that there is going to be a whole lot of people discussing this subject over the next few weeks, if not more, some will be for it and others will be totally against it. Goggle will be monitoring the whole process to see whether changes have to be made or perhaps even scrapping the whole thing.

  5. I left a comment earlier but when I clicked add comment I got a server error. I thought maybe Big Brother had cut you off. :-)

    Yes I got the e-mail too. I wonder how they track readers interests. My guess is they track IP addresses from sites that have Google code installed, like Analytics code.

    Ned Carey´s Last blog post..1099s Are Due! Have You Sent Yours Out?

    1. Hey Ned, I wouldn’t put it past them at all. :tongue2_tb:
      As for how they track readers it’s all to do with the cookies they drop on unsuspecting people who visit sites in the Adsense Network, including YouTube.

      1. They can’t do this – From reading above, it’s only tracking sites within the Google network.

        Cookies can only track you on the domain they’re registered on, so they can track what you search / what sites you visit in their network ( / etc)

        If you don’t use a lot of google stuff, you really don’t have much to worry about.

        1. That may well be, but I’m still not comfortable with it.

  6. Good evening, Sire.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic.

    I received their email yesterday, but did not have a chance to read it until after I saw your blog post.

    My opinion is clear. I will not participate in Google’s interest-based advertising.

    I think they’re making a big mistake with this.

    Act on your dream!


    John Dilbeck´s Last blog post..I will not participate in Google’s interest-based advertising

    1. I’ve still to make up my mind John, but so far I am leaning to the opting out myself.

      1. I think John is correct. If I were still running AdSense I would DEFINITELY opt out. Better the ads you already have (hopefully – or at least some of them – who knows for sure) than Google showing whatever they THINK that user wants to see.

        I am certain they have no idea how many shared PCs there are where the people have no idea how to set up separate users. Can you imagine them showing ads for things a teenager searched for to his grandmother?

        Back when they first started showing ads based on what you had recently searched on you can’t believe the combinations. I wish I could remember them.

        One I do remember was searching for horses for rent and car tranporters (for client ppc accounts) so the Google system showed auto and life insurance ads for most searches after those.

        If you fell off your rental horse you might WISH you had bought life insurance but those ads showed up for totally unrelated searches – and I wasn’t looking for any kind of insurance!

        InternetStrategist´s Last blog post..Blog Traffic Up 54.87% in the Last 30 Days: Our Proven Traffic Improvement Strategy

  7. Twitter:
    Sire, I thought it was a spoof ad, so I just deleted it without reading it. Thing is, based on what you’ve just said, I went into the “My Account” tab and I don’t have anything listed underneath it. So, if this is legit, it’s not legit for me, at least right now it’s not.

    Mitch´s Last blog post..Is The Dream A Fraud?

    1. Oh, it’s legit alright and I checked my account and it’s exactly where they said it would be.

        1. That is weird isn’t it Mitch, how if something is going to happen, or not happen in this particular case, it usually happens to you.

          1. Twitter:
            Yeah, I wonder what’s up with that. I just tried a couple of suggestions from John, but it ain’t happening for me. Odd duck out, I suppose; maybe I’m making too much Google cash for it to let me go. lol

            Mitch´s Last blog post..Keys To Leadership

        2. Twitter:
          You know, someone could have asked me if I was running Adblock Pro on my Firefox browser; just thought of it after, what, a week, and voila! Sheesh! Well, at least now it’s gone, but now I have to write a stupid privacy policy for all my sites; weasels.

          Mitch´s Last blog post..Is Google Reading Your Robots.txt File?

          1. I would’ve but I didn’t think it was a popup, and yes the privacy policy sucks

          2. Twitter:
            Well, I’ve noticed that, on Firefox, it doesn’t only stop popups, but it blocks anything it considers as an ad, which can include certain text from some sites. I’ve had it happen before, but totally forgot about it.

            Wish I’d thought of it before I’d deleted all my cookies and history. :cry_wp: :annoyed_tb: :wallbash_tb:

            Mitch´s Last blog post..Is The Dream A Fraud?

      1. @ Mitch – I’m not seeing it yet either, but I’m no in the US, so that might have something to do with that.

        1. Twitter:
          I just figured out that you have to turn off your popup blocker in order to see it; ugh!

          1. Now that is weird because as far as I could see, it’s not a popup.

  8. Could be tricky for those who spend a lot of time on particular sites?

  9. I haven’t been in my Google account for quite a while, so I don;t know if it’s there or not. It doesn’t sound like something for me though.

    Dennis Edell´s Last blog post..Do You Charge For Blog Reviews?

    1. Go check Dennis. It will be interesting to know as Mitch didn’t have it in his account and I would have thought that once they had made the change it would automatically apply to everyone.

  10. Good luck to them in figuring out my interests. Between my tennis, ballroom dancing, scrapbooking, poetry, photography, social media, blogging, and other miscellaneous surfing I do, they will have an algorithm field day.

    As far as invasion of privacy, I’m concerned. But I use Gmail, and get ads based on whatever content is in my email, so I’m sure my privacy has already been infiltrated at this point.

    Thanks for the tip on shutting it off on Adsense. :)

    ~ Kristi

    Kikolani´s Last blog post..Fetching Friday – Web 2.0 At the Bookstore, Twitter Resources

  11. No worries Kristi, you know me mate, always willing to help a damsel in distress.

  12. When does opting out NOT equal opting out? Did you read the official Google answer about changing your privacy policy? Here it is:

    QUESTION: I’ve opted out of ads based on user interest categories. Do I still need to change my privacy policy?

    ANSWER: Yes, you’ll still need to update your privacy policy. Even if you choose to opt out of displaying ads based on interest categories, your site(s) will continue to show ads based on user interactions with an advertiser, such as visits to advertiser sites. As a result, your privacy policy still needs to reflect interest-based advertising.

    Please take a moment to review the following information to ensure that your site’s privacy policies are up-to-date by April 8, 2009. Because publisher sites and laws vary across countries, we’re unable to suggest specific privacy policy language.

    This is from Official Google FAQ

    1. Sorry IS, I know you are a lady and all, as is Kristi just below me, but What A Load Of BULLSHIT! There, now I feel heaps better.

  13. Well, it seems a new and effective way to trace the visitors.

  14. The idea sounds great for everyone except users. Advertisers will sell more stuff. Blog owners will make more money since there’ll be more clicks. Google will make more money for both of those reasons. Users will get screwed over and their privacy will be used for profit. I don’t like this idea.

    1. And yet Google in it’s wisdom has decided that it is OK to impinge on the users surfing habits as it’s for their own good.

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