Behavioral Targeting has become the buzz words these days. Behavioral targeting Vendors are spreading like wildfire. It is become hard to keep up with all the vendors in the market and find out who is tracking your behavior.
Even though most of the time tracking is done anonymously, using a third party anonymous cookie, Behavioral Targeting has raised privacy concerns. Most of the time these privacy concerns are unfound but still there are chances when it they can become an issue.
To ease consumers concerns and give them control over their tracking, Network Advertising Initiate (NAI) has developed an Opt-out Tool. This tool allows consumers to see what Advertising networks have dropped cookie on their computer and hence are tracking their behavior. If a person does not want any network(s) to track his/her behavior the visitor can "opt out" of the network using this tool.
Opting out of a network does not mean a visitor will no longer receive online advertising. It does mean that the network from which a visitor opted out will no longer deliver ads based on the visitor’s behavior and/or preferences.
One caveat is that opt-out (using this tool) is based on third party cookies. What that means is that third party cookies are dropped on a visitor’s computer from the networks that he/she opt-outs from. When the visitor visits a site that is part of the network, network code reads the cookies and if it finds an opt-out cookie on the computer then if does not track or show targeted (behavioral) ads. If the visitor deletes the cookie or uses a software which deletes the cookies then visitor will be automatically opted-in again and he/she will have to repeat the process of opting out.
I believe that NAI should push this initiative even further and allow consumers to opt-out directly from the ads that are being served based on behavioral data or from the sites where the data is being collected. I am predicting that this year we might see a push in that direction. I also believe there will be opt-in networks instead of opt-outs (I wrote about my proposed solution when discussingGoogle DoubleClick privacy concerns, networks that will allow more control to visitors and reward users for participating in these networks (something similar to MyPoints, which asked for your preferences and then emailed you offers or ads based on those preferences and then rewarded you for clicking on those email offers).
Here are the networks that are part of NAI (I will write about these networks in future articles).
24/7 Real Media
[x+1] (formerly Poindexter Systems)
Yahoo! Ad Network
TACODA Audience Networks
Here is the screenshot of the tool.
To use the tool visit NAI Website.
I tested it on two computers and was surprised to find out that I did not have network cookies from DoubleClick and Yahoo ad networks on either of the computers. I don’t believe that. So I don’t think the tool is fully functional, I will test various network in few days and report back if I find anything odd. For now, I have left all my cookies as it is because I find the value in behaviorally targeted ads, I will only opt-out for testing purposes. When you guys try can you let me know if you are seeing the same thing?