Many people have found the recent development by many of the operators of free online service sites, and social networking sites, of online behavioral advertising annoying and even objectionable. Therefore, Mozilla Firefox could be on to a winner with this new feature.
The essence of online behavioural advertising is that the information given in your site membership profiles is used, plus potentially also your browsing behaviour while on the sites in question, to deliver personalized ads while you are on these sites. Such advertising is directed at you specifically and tuned to sell you products and services which these web site operators believe you will be likely to buy.
Blogger developer Alex Fowler has given more details which flesh-out an announcement made on Sunday by Firefox. Mozilla’s head of privacy said that they set out to give users “a deeper understanding of and control over personal information online.”
Alex Fowler indicates that this will be done by Firefox providing its users the option to use a new hidden “tag” which will be a simple line of code provided by the person’s web browser with opt-out information to the site each time you visit, which in time should be used and respected by the sites to turn off their behavioral advertising. It is not expected that adverts will cease to appear after opting-out of behavioural advertising, but they will be general ads and not personalized for you.
Service providers will point out that providing web services such as free email, and free social networking sites like Facebook and Gmail, which use behavioural advertising extensively, do need to make themselves an income in order to continue to provide these services.
One reason why behavioural advertising has been developed is that internet users are becoming much more astute at recognising adverts, and resisting the temptation to click on them. It is called Ad banner blindness, and it tends to mean that the click through rates on ads is declining with time.
To keep their revenue up, sites need to either have more ads, which users will find even more obtrusive, or focus them better by techniques like behavioural advertising. Behavioral advertising does after all have some benefit to users, such that the page can be less cluttered with ads for the same revenue, as the click through rates will be higher for the more focussed ads.
It is equally easy to side with the purists who quite rightly point out that profile page information is freely given by site users for the benefit of themselves and other site users, not for the purpose of profit. Therefore, the creeping use of personal information in this way is invidious and breaks faith with users.
As with most things there is an argument to be made for both sides, and for as long as users of these sites vote for them to be provided free, they will have to accept advertising to pay for them at some level. Without profit from advertising from these sites will cease to exist.
Most would find that hard to accept as such sites are in the most part the reason people are willing to spend out on their broadband connections and devote regular time to activity on the internet.