Internet giant Google will introduce a new advertising product based on behavioural targeting that will deliver tailored ads to users based on their website browsing history.
The group will release a beta version of its “interest-based advertising” today, in the first major project developed following its $US3.1 billion acquisition of ad company DoubleClick last year.
The behavioural targeting method works by identifying sites a user visits that use Google text and display advertising, and then uses DoubleClick technology to link the user with relevant advertising topics.
“We think we can make online advertising even more relevant and useful by using additional information about the websites people visit,” the company said on a blog post.
“These ads will associate categories of interest – say sports, gardening, cars, pets – with your browser, based on the types of sites you visit and the pages you view. We may then use those interest categories to show you more relevant text and display ads.
“By making ads more relevant, and improving the connection between advertisers and our users, we can create more value for everyone,” the company said.
“Users get more useful ads, and these more relevant ads generate higher returns for advertisers and publishers.”
But there have been privacy concerns over the new arrangement. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, has said the Google system will aggregate too much information.
“This is a very serious development. I don’t think the world’s largest search engine should be in the business of profiling people,” he told tech site Network World.
“It’s a disaster… Google long maintained it would not do this type of advertising. Indeed, they claimed they didn’t need to, and they went after others who did.”
The Center for Digital Democracy executive director Jeffrey Chester also told Network World that he disputes Google’s claim that the project is about delivering more relevant ads.
“It’s about the most powerful interactive ad company expanding its data collection and targeting activities on users,” he said.
“The real headline is that Google has finally gone into the behavioural targeting business. That’s why they acquired one of the world’s biggest behavioural targeting ad companies, DoubleClick.
“Now, they are finally admitting they are going to extend behavioural targeting through its online ad network – the world’s largest and most dominant.”
But Google has defended its plans, saying users are free to opt out of the system and can view and change advertising categories they are personally linked with. The company also says it will not connect people with ads based on data such as race, religion and “sensitive financial categories”.
“We have built a tool called Ads Preferences Manager, which lets you view, delete, or add interest categories associated with your browser so that you can receive ads that are more interesting to you,” Google said.
“You can always opt out of the advertising cookie for the AdSense partner network here. To make sure that your opt-out decision is respected (and isn’t deleted if you clear the cookies from your browser), we have designed a plug-in for your browser that maintains your opt-out choice.”
An Australian version of the system is set to be implemented later this year.