Google this week announced better than expected second-quarter revenue on the back of increased income from online video advertising, and internet users concerned about their online privacy should sit up and take note.
Hailed as an important source of income for corporations such as Google and Facebook, online video advertising is growing faster than most other advertising formats and mediums, with revenue predicted to increase annually by just under 20% through to 2016. By contrast, traditional online display advertising (think banner ads) is forecast to only grow at a 3% annual rate.
And it is Google that is well placed to reap the benefits of this boom. The company accounted for more than a third of digital ad spending world-wide in 2014, with Facebook its nearest rival.
But with increasing proliferation of the emerging digital ad format comes the potential for increased imposition into internet users’ privacy. Much like traditional banner ads or other older display advertising formats, online video advertising is often a gateway for internet companies to impeach on the privacy of internet users by collecting information about their online habits and browsing history.
This information can then be used by advertisers for an infernal practice called “retargeting”. In simple terms, this is a method to follow visitors around the web with ads based on browser history. For just one implication of such a practice, think of the poor guy whose Christmas was ruined because his family knew where he had been shopping.
So naturally, it is right to expect the emerging format of online video advertisement to face the same scrupulous regulations as its older cousin. It is no surprise, then, that after becoming increasingly concerned about consumer privacy a few years ago, the Federal Trade Organization pressured advertising companies into developing a self-regulatory program. The goal of this program was simple – empower internet users to manage their own data and have more control over the ads they are shown.
This self-regulatory program implemented some major changes in the digital marketing landscape, with the most significant being the AdChoices program. Simply put, AdChoices encourages online advertising platforms to include an advertising option icon on any ads or web pages where data is collected and used for behavioral advertising, whether that’s through digital advertisement or the traditional ad format medium.
The good news is that Google is a big proponent of AdChoices and this extends naturally to their booming online video advertising operations. The bad news is that because the program icon is so small and unobtrusive, most consumers don’t even notice it and therefore it continues to be underutilized.
To protect your privacy and to stop being tracked by ad companies, users have to click the AdChoices icon to open a pop-up window. This provides the user with more information, as well as the opportunity to opt out of interest-based ads. However, the format for this message varies depending on the ad platform, and opting out of advertising for different companies every time you browse the web can be a tiring and time-consuming experience.
Anonymous online surfing software such as Hide My IP is an excellent option for those who don’t want to go through the rigmarole that advertisers have put in place. By hiding your true IP address and IP location, Hide My IP can prevent the big advertisers that rely on geo-ip tracing tools from collecting and tracking your Internet usage behavior based on your IP location.