In the past few days there has been a lot of media coverage about online behavioural advertising – see for example this article published earlier this week in the Financial Times, under the euphonious title “A deeper peeper”.
One important issue in this context (e.g. in assessing whether this form of advertising involves unfair processing of personal information under the Data Protection Act) is the extent to which individuals can opt out of having information collected about their web usage. An opt out facility is offered by this site, which is maintained by a number of online advertising companies (including Google).
If you want to see whether Google is collecting information about your advertising preferences, or if you want to change that information, then you can do so here.
There’s an important general point here. Privacy will in future depend increasingly on two things. One is the development of tools to enable individuals to protect their privacy. The other is the willingness of individuals to find out about those tools and to use them. The Information Commissioner issued a report on this subject – entitled “Privacy by design” – in November 2008.
The other side of the coin, as far as behavioural advertising is concerned, is that some individuals will actually welcome the prospect of receiving advertisements that are targeted to their individual interests. For instance, a number of Amazon users are happy to see book recommendations that reflect their previous use of the Amazon site.