Surfing the web has become a convenient but somewhat spooky experience. After users click on items on one site, they find ads and content presented by other sites as if someone’s been watching over their shoulder and adjusting what they see. If they show some interest in a certain brand or product, suddenly the ads on subsequent pages and sites will include more ads of the same kind. A common term for this is Online Behavioral Advertising, or OBA.
I Always Feel Like, Somebody’s Watchin’ Meeee
Almost forgot all about this awesome song haha, and the video!
Savvy web surfers will begin to get defensive and worry about just how much they’re being tracked, and how much of the information about them is being collected and used in ways they didn’t allow or want. Users can have privacy and personalization together, however. Companies and universities have been working to find a way to bring the two together, using ways to provide anonymity in communicating the user’s preferences.
User Interaction Design
Adapted content can be a big plus for site visitors who have specific interests and don’t want to have to click their way through other content, locate search boxes and think of keywords or otherwise explain to the website what they are looking for. If privacy concerns weren’t an issue, many visitors would just appreciate the convenience and enjoy the visit even more as it focused on their specific habits and interests.
Companies like Phorm Global are providing services that address both the privacy concerns of web users and the desire to locate content of interest in a sea of irrelevant items. Along the way, they are enabling advertisers to work with ISPs and content sources in a way that maximizes relevance. The ISPs aren’t giving up their user data, they’re just facilitating the matchmaking process designed to connect users and content and ad providers anonymously.
Various approaches are used to provide the anonymous data, from processing a user’s browsing history as an academic project has proposed, to bridging external sources. The key is to provide a flexible, convenient and most of all secure personalization technology.
What About The Users?
Users, in this case, are protected by being “just a number.” Aggregate information directs what is presented to them, and detailed information is not stored, nor is anything that goes beyond the consumer realm to describe them as an individual such as political interests or medical issues. Available through any type of ISP, whether wireless or wired, the service is “opt in,” and can be turned on or off by the user at any time.
Technologies are evolving to protect the consumer online while providing advertising convenience. The ability to narrow or combine interests and compare them with advertising targets allows publishers to connect based on those targets. Ad networks, individual advertisers and ad agencies can maximize the relationship between user preferences and ads and information presented to the user. They use anonymous data that directs to the user’s unique browser instance without identifying the user.