FTC and Advertising Tracking

Ok, so the federal trade commission wants to regulate how advertisers track people on the web? Do they realize that that data is never linked back to an individual person? Or that no personal information is ever collected? That the cookies expire after so many days?

This is a necessary debate that should happen so consumers understand better what is happening on their computers and around them all the time, but it should not outlaw such a practice.

This 3rd party tracking data is the only thing that makes the internet more viable as a place to advertise than offline. (are the TV networks and newspapers behind this push?) And the growth of our American economy depends on these cookies right now. (and google’s especially)

To my knowledge the cookies track this type of information:

1. whether or not you go back to a site after you have been displayed an ad for it

2. whether or not you convert from a visitor to a buyer while you are on the site

3. whether or not you come back to the site at a later date and buy something then

4. which ads you were displayed over the time the cookie has been there

5. which ad you came to the site from clicking on

6. sometimes there is geo location information generated from your IP address, but a lot of ISPs don’t assign you a static IP and then that isn’t relevant anymore.

7. the time and date of the ads you have seen and of your visits to the site

8. What type of browser you are using and what operating system but this is hardly personal information

And that is about it. No personal info, no credit card or social security info either.

The big flap about behavioral advertising is that they target the ads based on some data they have about you or your computer. Sites may serve you ads relevant to your location, your past site visits or of you have a profile on that site, the profile information you have submitted. Then they follow you around on the site showing you the ads targeted for that group. I know that only certain sites use this and it is not the majority. The click through rates are even lower than normal because you show someone the same ad 10 times, but the conversion rates after they click are higher than normal because of the fit between the ad and the person’s need if it was targeted correctly.

So all in all, I just wanted to say that this information is crucial in keeping businesses in business by knowing what works and does not work in advertising so they don’t spend a lot of money on stuff that doesn’t work. This was the huge problem in offline advertising for years even before it fragmented. It’s not about spying or sharing any information about you as a person. It’s simply about business data and using it to refine their business to be a better company and web site. And if you turn off the cookie feature on your browser you don’t have to participate at all. It’s not as evil as people think it would be when you get into the real meat of the matter.

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