January 29, 2015

How-to Steer Online Behavioral Advertising

Tomorrow Facebook will change its privacy policy and at least in Germany you can read today tremendously ridiculous articles in newspapers. You can read the details here.

Most articles are not explaining what will happen, but are only stating that people should either leave Facebook instantly or to solely use Facebook in a dedicated browser to avoid tracking of any private information. For instance using Internet Explorer only for facebook.com, and any other browser for all the rest … Those writers are probably ignoring that most Facebook users are working via the mobile app and that Facebook is far more than only facebook.com and does  consist of many companies and products.

Ironically most authors believe that there will be a big bang tomorrow in how Facebook is working.

Nothing will happen or change at all! I’m confident that every reader of this blog, who has used Facebook in 2014 has noticed behavioral advertisements on the platform. Means, if you have searched some articles for instance on amazon.com, there is a very high likelihood that  Facebook will show you similar advertisements on their social platform. Same obviously applies to wordpress.com or any other larger newspaper page on the net, or any of your favorite search engines.

Two simple things are changing tomorrow:

Firstly, Facebook is only changing their Privacy Policy to show what they are already doing for a while. So it’s not(!) about introducing a new technology, it’s about reflecting the past paradigm changes, transparently in their privacy policy. I can’t see anything bad in a company, constantly adapting their privacy policies.

Secondly, Facebook will start promoting even more publicly how you, as their end-user, can better protect your privacy through their “Privacy Basic” pages (https://www.facebook.com/about/basics). Here again, I don’t see any harm, in a company showing hints and tweaks to you for improving your experience with their product.

Last but not least, it’s important to note that you can opt-out from behavioral advertisement. Depending where you are living, you can use one of the following links to opt-out (seems that Asia has less concerns ;-):

Digital Advertising Alliance in the USA
Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada in Canada
European Digital Advertising Alliance in Europe

You will see on these pages, that a lot of companies listed there from which you can opt-out if you want. The fact that more companies are using behavioral advertisements than Facebook alone is probably less unknown to you, but it seems to be unknown to the majority of today’s journalists and politicians.

On a side note: this list of companies is far away to show the picture of all firms using behavioral advertisement. However, the ones agreeing that opt-out and opt-in most be an option for every end-user.

Hence, you have the choice to steer these companies. Important to note, that for Facebook it will be enough to opt-out for one service and the changes will get reflected to all their services,  brands and  products.

Once again, I sincerely believe this is excellent and nothing bad at all, it is just adding transparency.

Let’s face it: Facebook is a public company and far more than only a single product. They exist to generate revenue, and they never promised to become an advertisement-free social media platform. I prefer behavioral advertisement versus non-targeted ads.

I am in contrary looking forward to improved algorithms: I trust that I’m not the only one, who is puzzled to see an advertisement of a product you only bought seconds ago.

In case you are running a small or mid-size company, you should understand that behavioral ads will help you far more than causing harm. Let us think of 2 scenarios:

1) You have a very particular product but with a global audience
2) You have a generic product but a very local audience (i.e., a bakery).

In the first case, you will probably need to advertize on Super-Bowl but you will not have the budget for that. In the second case, you do not have a big budget either, but you have to make sure that yours are solely targeting your local audience and not having to pay for ads in another place.

This is another big win from behavioral ads. If you do not have an endless budget, Facebook will help you dramatically in targeting the right audience for you. Assuming that your particular product is a piece of software solely running on OS X then you will appreciate if your ad will only target users running this operating system.

Jeannot Muller

Entrepreneur, developer, author.

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