November 26, 2013, 6:38 PM — Dear Web Advertisers:
I know we’ve had our differences over the years. It’s true that I’ve never really been a huge fan of advertising in any medium. You assured me banner ads were necessary to keep the Internet free, or mostly free, and I believed you. But since I began surfing the Web back in the 1990s you’ve been gathering more and more information about me and my alleged interests. You constantly ask for more, but you give back less and less.
I know, I know – you just wanted to show me more ‘interesting’ ads. You said you weren’t collecting any information that could identify me. You meant me no harm. And if I really truly didn’t feel comfortable with that arrangement, you said I could opt out at any time. I could walk away and never be targeted again.
That’s what you promised. And so I went along with it. But it’s now become clear that you never had any intention of keeping any of your promises. Your vows of fidelity aren’t worth the paper they’re not printed on.
I feel hurt. I feel betrayed. I feel angry. And also hungry, though that has nothing to do with this. And I want out of this relationship -- yesterday, if possible.
Your cheatin’ art
Oh don’t give me that look. How could I believe you’ve been cheating on me? Are you seriously asking me that? Let me count the ways.
For example, just last month I called you out for secretly sending me targeted ads when I had very clearly opted out of them months earlier. But you begged me for another chance, and fool that I am, I relented. I opted out yet again, at least as best I could.
Here’s what my screen looked like on October 30, after I was through re-opting out of the 117 ad networks (of the more than 1300 tracking companies) that offer me this option.
Even then I was unable to opt out of four of the tracking companies. You claimed it was accidental, due to some glitch in the site. Yeah, I’ve heard that one a few times. But I decided to let it pass. Water under the bridge, ya know?
Two days ago I found a targeted ad staring me in the face at Yahoo News. WTF? I thought. Hadn’t we been through all this, so many times before?
So I had to go check my settings, yet again, at the AdChoices site. And that’s when I found out.
You’ve cheated on me. Again. Not once, not twice – 32 times. Nearly three dozen companies I had told quite explicitly to sod off were still following me, pawing through my Web histories, looking at where I’d been to figure out who I am so they could sell me more stuff.
Words cannot contain the rage and betrayal I felt. It’s like someone ripped out my heart and replaced it with a bag of cold french fries, and not those crispy delicious ones from Mickey D’s. We’re talking Carls Jr. Or worse – Taco Bell.
Fool for your love
When I ask why, for Gods’ sake, why, you come up with the lamest excuses. Like trying to convince me that those ads weren’t really targeted at me, even though AdChoices quite clearly labeled that Doubleclick ad as ‘interest based’.
Maybe my Internet security program deleted the opt out cookie, you meekly suggested. Yeah? Then why does Evidon seem to believe my opt out cookie is still there?
Every relationship, even the most tenuous commercial one, is based on trust. And I can’t believe I’ve ever trusted you.
This is hardly the first time I’ve been burned by Web tracking.
Thanks to you, I’ve had morbidly obese women following me around the InterWebs. I’ve been stalked by ads for geezer phones and young misses apparel. I’ve had dating sites share my drug habits and sexual proclivities with advertisers. I have tracking companies thinking I am a transgender octogenarian who owns a Lear Jet and shops at Kohls. (For the record, I have never shopped at Kohls.) The tracking got so bad, they could hear it across the pond and sent a BBC News reporter to talk to me about it.
And yet, when I come to you with tears in my eyes, that’s all you got. You say I should suck it up because data marketing is “good for the economy.” You leave anonymous comments claiming Do Not Track technology is some kind of socialist plot to take over the Web. You threaten to take away the ‘free Internet.’ As if you could.
Listen. It’s over between us. Don’t call me again. Erase my uniquely identifiable alphanumeric string from your weblogs. You are dead to me.
And the next time you serve an ad and nobody clicks on it? I hope you remember this conversation and feel the ice-cold dagger of regret stabbing at the empty space where your heart used to be.
Got a question about social media or privacy? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.
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