Behavioral advertising, also known as behavioral targeting or behavioral marketing, is when an advertiser or advertising server hooks into the data that is stored by your browser or app, to serve you interested based ads. These things tell the advertisers and networks things such as what searches you recently conducted, what sites you visited, etc.. Behavioral advertising is increasingly being used by advertisers and their publishers (Facebook just announced they are using behavioral advertising), and consumers are becoming increasingly concerned for their privacy. So how can you opt-out of behavioral advertising?
Wikipedia describes behavioral advertising like this: “When a consumer visits a web site, the pages they visit, the amount of time they view each page, the links they click on, the searches they make and the things that they interact with, allow sites to collect that data, and other factors, create a ‘profile’ that links to that visitor’s web browser. As a result, site publishers can use this data to create defined audience segments based upon visitors that have similar profiles. When visitors return to a specific site or a network of sites using the same web browser, those profiles can be used to allow advertisers to position their online ads in front of those visitors who exhibit a greater level of interest and intent for the products and services being offered.”
So what to do?
Well, for a start, you can opt-out of the behavioral advertising programs of those companies who have signed on to the voluntary Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising set up by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA).
When you get to the opt-out page, the site will begin checking your browser to discover which of their participating companies already have their hooks in you, although the DAA calls this “your browser’s status with participating companies.”
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List of Companies Signed on to, Honoring, and Complying with the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising Opt-Out Program
Cox Digital Solutions
Adara Media, Inc.
Adblade Premium Ad Network
AddThis (including XGraph)
Adobe Media Optimizer
Aggregate Knowledge, Inc.
Amazon Ad System
Atlas Solutions, LLC.
Brilig, a division of Merkle
Burst Media Corporation
Cognitive Match, Inc.
Conversant (formerly ValueClick, Mediaplex, and Dotomi)
CoreAudience (formerly RedAril)
Cross Pixel, Inc.
Datonics (formerly AlmondNet Data Division)
Defy Media (formerly Break Media)
Dstillery (formerly Media6Degrees)
eBay Enterprise (formerly FetchBack)
Experian Marketing Services
Inflection Point Media
Krux Digital, Inc.
Legolas Media, Inc.
Lotame Solutions, Inc.
Markit On Demand
MaxPoint Interactive, Inc.
Media Innovation Group (MIG)
MLN Advertising Inc
Mode Media (formerly Glam media)
Neustar (formerly TARGUSinfo)
Proclivity Systems, Inc.
Resonate Networks, Inc.
Rio SEO (formerly Meteor Solutions)
Rocket Fuel Inc.
Sizmek Inc. (formerly DG MediaMind)
Specific Media LLC
the Rubicon Project, Inc. (including Fox Audience Network)
The Trade Desk
Tremor Video, Inc.
Vibrant Media, Inc.
Vindico Bid Manager
Xaxis (formerly 24/7 Media)
Once the system is done checking it will show you a list of all of those companies that are already cookied or otherwise hooked into your browser, which they euphemstically make seem less intrusive by calling them “companies customizing ads for your browser.”
Select them all, and then hit “Submit your choices”.
Here is the result of our own test.
Notice how even though the system said that there were 96 “companies customizing ads for our browser”, the results say that they opted us out of 104 companies (hrmmm), and that opt-out could not be completed for another 12 (hrmmm).
We tried it again with the same results.
According to the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising support page, the following can affect successful opt-out, and what to do about it:
- If your browser blocks third party cookies, it may interfere with the functionality of this page and stop your out out choices from being set in your browser
completed, it is likely that software or settings on your computer are interfering with the function of the opt out tool
You can try your own luck at opting out of behavioral advertising here.
Block Interest Based Ad Tracking and Behavioral Advertising on Your Browser
A more proactive approach (do both, not one or the other) is to use an advertising blocking, privacy enhancing add-on for your browser, and app for your mobile devices.
One browser add-on that we like and use, and that is free as well, is AdBlock Plus. There are others, but AdBlock Plus not only blocks ads, it blocks tracking.
As AdBlock Plus explains on their site, “With every browsing session, there are multiple firms tracking your online activity and browsing history. There are hundreds of ad agencies tracking your every move, but with Adblock Plus you can easily disable all tracking, and browse the web truly anonymously.”
AdBlock Plus is available for all major browsers. You can install Adblock Plus here.
Block Interest Based Ad Tracking and Behavioral Advertising on Your iPhone or Android Phone
To block this sort of ad tracking on your iPhone, go to Settings – and where you will go from there will depend on your iOS version:
Block ad tracking on iOS 7
Go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising
Block ad tracking on iOS 6
Go to Settings > About > Advertising
Block ad tracking on Android device
Go to your Google settings (not your general Android settings!), and click on “Ads”:
Opt out of interest-based ads:
Of course, all of this is just one more arms race – just as spammers find ways around spam filters, you can be sure that advertisers will find their way around these measures. Especially when the advertisers are the ones controlling large parts of the Internet.
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