Growth in Online Video Advertising Should Mean Growing Concerns over Internet Privacy

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.

Online Tracking Ramps Up And The New Rules To Slow It Down

Online TrackingTracking on 50 of the most-visited websites has had a dramatic rise since 2010. This increase is driven in part by the rise of online-advertising, according to a new study by data-management company Krux Digital Inc.

On an average visit, 56 instances of data collection are triggered, up from just 10 instances when Krux conducted its initial study in 2010.

The rise in the number of online companies collecting data about Web-surfing behavior is a testament to the power of the $31 billion online-advertising business. This industry increasingly relies on data about users’ Web surfing behavior to target customer specific advertising.

Krux conducted its survey by crawling up to 10 pages on each of the 50 most-visited sites. The study didn’t include sites that require a user to log in, and Krux didn’t identify the sites it surveyed.

Despite rising concerns about online privacy, the online industry’s data-collection efforts have expanded. One reason is the popularity of online auctions, where advertisers buy data about users’ Web browsing. It is estimated that such auctions, known as real-time bidding exchanges, contribute to 40% of online data collection.

In real-time bidding, as soon as a user visits a Web page, the visit is auctioned to the highest bidder, based on attributes such as the type of page visited or previous Web browsing by the user. The bidding is done automatically using computer algorithms. It is estimated that real-time bidding will constitute 18% of the online display-ad market this year, up from 13% last year.

To make the auctions successful, advertising companies are racing to put tracking technology on as many websites as they can. This tracking technology gives them user and Web-page data to sell in the auction.

Krux in its latest study found that more than 300 companies collected data about users, up from 167 companies in 2010. The latest figure easily topped the 131 companies that The Wall Street Journal identified in a 2010 survey of tracking on the 50 most-visited websites.

Krux also found that data collectors were piggybacking on each other more than half the time. For example, when a user visited a website that had code for one tracking technology, the data collection would call out to and trigger other tracking technologies that weren’t embedded on the site. As a result, websites often don’t know how much data are being collected about their users.

Frustrated by a flood of privacy violations, the Federal Trade Commission issued a strong call for commercial-data collectors to adopt better privacy practices and called for Congress to pass comprehensive privacy legislation.

In a 73-page report on privacy in the digital age, the FTC called on U.S. commercial data collectors to implement a “Do Not Track” button in Web browsers by the end of the year.

“Simply put, your computer is your property. No one has the right to put anything on your computer that you don’t want,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC.

The agency also, for the first time, turned its attention to offline data brokers. These brokers buy and sell names, addresses and other personal information. The FTC is calling on them to create a centralized website providing consumers with access to their data, and the right to see and make corrections to their information.

Search Engines and Browsers, Are They Tracking You.

You Are Here
Almost all of us navigate the Internet by using search engines. Search engines have (and use) the ability to track each one of your searches. They can record your IP address, the search terms you used, the time of your search, and other information.

Although it may not seem like you are giving very much information, when you browse the Internet you are relaying personal information to Web sites. Browsers are likely providing your IP address and information about which sites you have visited. As you navigate from website to website, numerous companies are using sophisticated methods to track and identify you.

Most major browsers now offer a “Private Browsing” tool to help increase your privacy. However, it has been found that “Private Browsing” may not remove all traces of online activity. Many popular browser extensions and plugins undermine the security of “Private Browsing”.

Major search engines have said they need to retain personal data, in part, to provide better services, to stop possible security threats, to keep search ranking results accurate and more. Major search engines often have retained this data for over a year, well beyond any time frame needed to address these concerns.

Remember, in today’s day and age it isn’t just “Buyer Beware”… It’s “Browser Beware”!

Are you being tracked? Search Engines and other ways of tracking you online.

It is a common practice to routinely buy Cyber Wormholesell or track your online data. Tracking cookies are the norm on popular websites; tech giants such as Google have a reputation for over collecting and mishandling online users’ personal data.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 73 percent of users said they would not be OK with an online search engine keeping track of their queries even if the data provides personalized results in the future.
While this issue receives most of the attention, corporations and governments may keep an eye on you in other, less known ways.
Is the Government Building a File on You?
The idea that government agents are reading your email messages and listening to your phone calls sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it is possible. According to some former National Security Agency employees, turned whistleblowers, the government is building a dossier on practically every U.S. citizen, drawing on information from e-mails and phone calls.
You can’t opt out of this type of data collection, but you can hope that Congress doesn’t renew the FISA Amendments Act, which would renew a President Bush law that allows the government to collect large amounts of information from the “international communications” of American citizens. The Electronic Freedom Foundation is imploring citizens to write their members of Congress about the issue.
What kind of books do you read? EBooks Know.
In the digital age, your reading habits are an open book to companies like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, eBook sellers can easily track reading data, like how long you spend reading, how far you get in a book, what text you search for, and what you read next. Not all companies are open about what they collect, but Barnes & Noble has confirmed that they are “in the earliest stages of deep analytics,” and use the data to determine which books to sell on its Nook eBook reader products. There’s no evidence that booksellers use reading data to share your habits with marketers or government agencies.
Wireless Carriers Do Sell User Info for Big Bucks
The wireless carriers have a knack for extracting more and more money out of their subscribers—or, it turns out, from their subscribers’ data. One lucrative gig involves retrieving users’ locations on behalf of law enforcement, in many cases without warrants. AT&T, just one of the participating carriers, reportedly received $8.2 million in 2011 for providing this service, so it works out pretty well for all involved—except those users who don’t want to be followed, that is.
That’s not the only example of wireless carriers profiting from user data. As reported last year, all four of the major wireless carriers use aggregated, anonymous customer data to target ads. Verizon even sells the collected data to third parties. The amount of data each carrier collects varies, but Sprint is the worst offender, using mobile Web browsing and app download history to help its clients target ads.

Microsoft Adopts Do Not Track

Do Not Track
Recently Microsoft announced a change in how DNT (Do Not Track) will be implemented in Internet Explorer. In a new pre-release version of IE 10 Microsoft will automatically start sending a DNT header for the user so that they will not be tracked by third parties across the web.

We think it is absolutely great to see Microsoft put its full support into DNT. It is important to note that only a year ago Firefox was the only browser that supported DNT. This push on Microsoft’s part will move DNT more into the main stream and bring issues of user control and privacy into the light.

We are eagerly awaiting more information about Microsoft’s new DNT implementation. Such a big name taking this on should mean a lot towards setting standards in regards to DNT. At the core of DNT, and indeed the reason for its existence, is the ability to allow users a choice as to whether they wished to be tracked or not. Believe it or not this is a big deal as up until now the user has not had this choice presented to them. It was simply not put in their hands.

The WC3 group, made up of leading consumer privacy groups and industry representatives including Microsoft , states: “Key to that notion of expression is that it must reflect the user’s preference, not the preference of some institutional or network-imposed mechanism outside the user’s control.”

DNT is exciting because it is not an off switch for a form of technology, rather it is users choice reflected in code. That is what makes this great. DNT goes beyond specific technologies and goes to the heart of the matter: how user browsing habits are used.

Currently there are three different signals to consider when delivering the users tracking preferences. The user can accept tracking, decline tracking, or not have a choice. Firefox defaults to the third option and handles it as if the user says it declines tracking. Ultimately it will be up to the company on how they wish to handle the third option, but we commend Mozilla Firefox for protecting its users by default.

All of this is extremely interesting and a great relief to the end user. There is no reason it could have gone the other way, and we are simply ecstatic that a company like Microsoft is running with DNT in order to protect user choice.