Internet Based Ads
Internet-based advertising, also known as ad targeting or online behavioural advertising (“OBA”), involves the tracking of consumers’ online activities to deliver tailored or targeted advertising. The practice, typically invisible to consumers, allows businesses to align their ads to certain inferred interests of their audience. Most Internet users conducting a search for a product or service have been targeted by behavioural advertising.
In a classic case of OBA, your web-browsing activities were tracked by the use of “cookies” – a small text file that a Web site’s server places on your computer’s browser. The cookie transmits information back to the Web site’s server about your browsing activities. Cookies also can be used to maintain data related to a particular individual, such as passwords and items placed in a virtual shopping cart. In some contexts, such as where a number of separate Web sites participate in a network, cookies can be used to track a computer user across different sites, as in the above example of being “followed” from a travel site to a news site Although it is possible to opt out of tracking and to circumvent future tracking by deleting cookies, there are also HTTP cookies (also known as “zombie cookies”) that are automatically recreated after users attempt to delete them.
Today, custom Internet advertising is widespread, and the public is beginning to notice. Some activists see the practice as an invasion of privacy since it relies so heavily on the collection of personal information, but we insist that it’s harmless.