Today’s focus will be touch on online behavior. This first article is about finding the delicate balance between maintaining online privacy versus targeted advertising. Online users on one hand want to connect with their family, friends and colleagues, but on the other hand, want some privacy. Advertisers try to track the user’s online behavior by tracking their website visits, purchases, freeware, and email. If all these inputs are being monitored it almost becomes Big Brother-like behavior. By targeting the user more effectively, ads become increasingly relevant to the consumer and also increases the ROI for the advertiser. Much of Google’s revenue is from selling contextually relevant ads, as they strive to find increasingly more effective methods to target consumers.
Recently, Facebook launched an advertising program called Beacon, which tracks user purchases with Facebook-affiliated vendor sites and shares this with the user friends. Could the purchase of a certain product be a conversation piece for the user with his/her friends? Or is it an intrusion of privacy to the user? It has caused much controversy. Again, in the pursuit of contextually relevant advertising, many people feel that it has crossed the line with respecting online privacy.
The effect on privacy will be felt by current generation of users (high school, college and young professional users). In the past, most activities and experiences with family, friends and colleagues were not broadcast around the world. How will the greater transparency of social behaviors have on the current generation? Only time will tell. Are people opening themselves up too much?