Stop the Prying Eyes

You might like to have targeted advertising

More and more of us are starting realise what happens behind the scenes as we innocently use our internet connected devices. We leave little traces that are like gold dust to companies selling advertising space.

I’m sure you’ve noticed and perhaps been annoyed by that advert that seems to follow you around. You’ll visit site after site and the same advert keeps popping up on your screen.

In theory it works

You only have to have viewed an item once on a shopping site or clicked a link that takes you to a site selling services to be marked. In theory, if your browser has a cookie placed there by Company X, you should be interested in the type of products or services they have on offer. You might therefore welcome targeted advertising and find it handy to be presented with a convenient link back to that company’s website as you continue surfing.

Personally, I can do without the prying eyes. I want to remain anonymous. There is something disconcerting about being constantly reminded of your recent past online activity. I long for random advertising.

Indelibly Marked

Stop the Prying Eye

I have two particular adverts that are beginning to drive me mad at the moment and neither of them am I remotely interested in purchasing products or services from. The one company whose products enable people to have online meetings, has been literally in my face for the last month. Ever since another company who sell software I am interested in purchasing on behalf of a client offered to demonstration via a webinar. Having proposed a particular service that I had never used before, I took a quick look at their website. That was it. The cost of a two minute glance is a month of constant nagging.

I am also a victim of another company whose representative posted a comment on one of my blogs on this very website. Naturally, I’m weary of spammers so before approving what seemed to be a genuine constructive comment from someone who was a web designer himself I checked out the website attached. Boom! I got infected. 6 months later, I’m still being dogged by their adverts everywhere I surf.

Cookies: Delete, delete, delete

As my annoyance mounted, I sought to alleviate the badgering. Sifting through my browser history, I found all references to these companies and consigned them to the trash. What difference did it make? None. I tried again. This time consigning any cookie remotely similar to their company names to the bin. Still no peace. I figure they use third party companies that sneakily disguise their identity and intentions with obscurely coded names of the cookies they’ve implanted in my browser.

Facebook’s vow

Facebook's updated terms, data policy, and cookies policy

Many of you reading this will, like me, have received a communication from Facebook vowing to make the situation worse. They say they’ll be watching what you do and to expect “improved ads based on apps and sites you use”. They even show off by displaying an image featuring the hand of a Black man holding a mobile device. The message comes across as though you have no choice. You use our website – we sell information about you. Its part of the deal. Most people would leave it at that but if you click and scroll to the bottom you will find:

You can opt out of seeing ads on Facebook based on the apps and sites you use through the Digital Advertising Alliance.

A further two clicks later and you could be at the page where you can turn off or turn on Facebook and all companies that collect and use information about your activity on websites, devices or apps to provide online behavioural advertising. The companies are listed and you have the option to set your preferences for them individually.

We know what your doing

So the experiment is under way. Rather than trying to cleanse my browser of the tell-tale signs of my online activity and have Big Brother thumb his nose at me saying ‘We know what your doing’, I’m trying to cut out targeted advertising at the source.

Are you grateful or disgruntled by online behavioural advertising? Are you easy or do you echo my feelings on this? Have you or will you be heading them off at the pass? Did it work? Drop a comment.

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