July 30th, 2009
Ads Follow Web Users, and Get More Personal
By Stephanie Clifford
The New York Times
For all the concern and uproar over online privacy, marketers and data companies have always known much more about consumers’ offline lives, like income, credit score, home ownership, even what car they drive and whether they have a hunting license. Recently, some of these companies have started connecting this mountain of information to consumers’ browsers.
The result is a sea change in the way consumers encounter the Web. Not only will people see customized advertising, they will see different versions of Web sites from other consumers and even receive different discount offers while shopping — all based on information from their offline history. Two women in adjoining offices could go to the same cosmetic site, but one might see a $300 Missoni perfume, the other the house-brand lipstick on sale for $2.
But consumer advocates say such unseen tracking is troubling. On the old Internet, nobody knew you were a dog. On the new targeted Internet, they now know what kind of dog you are, your favorite leash color, the last time you had fleas and the date you were neutered.