Computing Columnist: Do not track
A couple of months ago, I was doing some research for a client. To that end, I was visiting some competitors' websites, looking at their (very specific) product offering.
The next thing I knew, I was being deluged with ads for that product category wherever I went on the Internet. I might not even have noticed it, as, I regret to say for advertisers, I (and many others) have become very adept at "not seeing" ads on websites, except that this product category had my attention because of my client.
At first amusing, it soon became annoying. And I could only imagine the potential for embarrassing depending on what product you were searching--and who happened to be shoulder surfing as you were innocently going about everyday business at another time.
Marketers, of course, will suggest that by searching for a particular product, say, hairspray, you were "raising your hand" in interest, thereby offering yourself up as a willing victim to advertising for that (and related) products. And, to an extent, they're right. If I'm looking for a vacation in Mexico, for example, I might very well want to get lots of offers for special deals on hotels, cars, or condo rentals. On the other hand, I may have just wanted to get a sense of price range for hearing aids, and suddenly I'm being tracked across the wilds of cyberspace by hearing aid offers, along with all sorts of other products aimed at an aging population.
Now, with the addition of Google's Chrome (evidently, reluctantly), all the major browsers will offer a "Do Not Track" option. Users can now opt out of this type of marketing, but must do so actively. And, Chrome has only agreed to offer this option in its next release, with the added caveat that Chrome (as is true of all browsers) is a "work in progress," and can always remove the option at some later date.
Depending on your browser, or browsers of choice, how to implement Do Not Track will vary. For example, in Firefox, "This feature is not enabled by default. You can find the Do Not Track request on the Privacy pane. On Windows, go to Tools > Options... > Privacy. Click to check the box next to 'Tell websites I do not want to be tracked.'"
The specific instructions can be found by searching on "Do not track" and your browser name.