Sunday, August 10, 2008

Opt-out from Google and Yahoo Ad Network

Online tracking and advertising based on users’ online behavior have got a lot of heat and scrutiny from privacy advocates and lawmakers.

As a result of this scrutiny Yahoo and Google/Doubleclick are now both providing an easy way for user to opt-out of ad targeting on their receptive networks. Yahoo and Doubleclick were part of Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) and allowed users to opt-out from their network via NAI’s opt-out tool.


To find out more about Google network cookie and how to opt-out visit

Since a lot of you are working in the field of web analytics, you must be wondering how google opt-out will affect the data tracked in web analytics. The simple answer is that this option will not affect Google Analytics. A first party cookie from the site using Google Analytics is used for tracking user behavior on the site using Google Analytics, this cookie is separate from Google ad network cookie. According to Google
“A different cookie is used for each website, and visitors are not tracked across multiple sites…. To disable this type of cookie, some browsers will indicate when a cookie is being sent and allow you to decline cookies on a case-by-case basis. “


Yahoo has been offering that opt-out option for the ads the company runs on it outside partner sites in its network. Yahoo will now extend opt-out option to ads displayed on its own sites. You can read more about this option.
Below is excerpt from Yahoo Press release

Anne Toth, head of privacy and VP for policy, said, "Yahoo! understands the trust of our users is our greatest asset, so we strive to create the most trusted, compelling online experience."
"Yahoo! strongly believes that consumers want choice when customizing their online experience and they have also demonstrated a strong preference for advertising that is more personally relevant to them," continued Toth. "However, we understand that there are some users who prefer not to receive customized advertising and this opt-out will offer them even greater choice."
This new opt-out capability is expected to be available for consumers by the end of August. Users will be able to access the opt-out in the Yahoo! privacy center, which is linked on the home page and nearly every page on the Yahoo! network. Users will also be able to access the opt-out through a link in the public service advertising campaign Yahoo! has been running with online ads across its network to educate users about customized advertising.

Yahoo and Google have taken the steps in right direction but they are not perfect. As I wrote before, both these models are dependent on an opt-out cookie. If you opt-out of these networks and later delete your cookies you will again be automatically opted-in. I have advocated an opt-in model for Behavioral Targeting. This model will remove this dependence on cookie for opt-out. I do realize publishers and ad-networks concern that opt-in model will limit the reach. It is possible that the opt-in model might limit the reach initially but in long run if the value proposition is strong for users then user will opt-in.

What do you think?

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