Behavioral Targeting Moves by Yahoo and Google

A recent article by Brandweek, talks about how Yahoo is betting big on Behavioral Targeting.
Yahoo has been testing its BT like targeting since 2003 or so. I am from India but has been living in US for years, I signed up for my yahoo account in US. Sometime around 2003 when I logged out of my yahoo email, yahoo served me an ad related to an Indian company. I don’t remember explicitly telling yahoo that I was from India. I asked my co-worker (sitting next to me and who was not of Indian origin) to browse to the same location but she did not get the same ad. My thinking at that time was that that they were somehow reading the content of my emails (just like gmail), since I didn’t remember using yahoo search engine to find that content related to India, but I am not 100% sure though) and serving ads based on it.

According to this Brandweek article, critics say behavioral targeting is an invasion of privacy. Jeffrey Chester, CDD founder and executive director said he has no problem with behavioral targeting if advertisers disclose to consumers that they are tracking information. “They need to fully disclose and get permission, but they’re afraid to do it,” Chester said. I am not a critic of BT but I agree with Chester as I wrote in my posting on Google and Doubleclick privacy concerns.
Yahoo! rep Dina Freeman said the company protects its users’ privacy. “It’s anonymous. It’s never tied to your name,” she said. “Consumers in general are coming around to the fact that they like the relevancy.”

I agree with the above statement but let’s disclose this to consumers so that everybody can feel comfortable.

Google on the other hand has been saying that it won’t consider behavioral targeting. Even though Google is resisting Behavioral Targeting so far but a lot of people (including me) are predicting that Google will soon get into Behavioral Targeting. According to Brandweek article, however, now Google is saying they won’t consider behavioral targeting without getting consumers’ approval. So they are thinking about it too if they get consumer approval. Richard Holden, director of product management at Google says “We’re not opposed to it in principle, if it means showing fewer ads but ones that are more relevant.” Yes, Behavioral Targeting is about showing relevant ads, so when can we expect first BT Targeted ads on Google network?

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