Online tracking is growing faster than most people realize

In one year the number of tracking firms have doubled and the amount of data they collect has grown more than 400 percent, according to a study by Krux Digital.

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Real Time Bidding now accounts for a fifth of of the $30 billion+ online ad market, according to Forrester, and is only expected to grow. This is the real reason why every time any one brings up Do Not Track legislation, the ad industry recoils in horror and says, “My God, man, can’t you see what you’re doing? You’re killing the Internets!”

Krux’s mission isn’t to protect consumers, it’s to allow publishers to hoard that data for themselves. Publishers want to be the ones who pocket the extra revenue by capturing your data.

(So much for the argument that targeted ads are necessary to support the “free” Internet. If the publishers who pay to produce that content aren’t sharing in the wealth, those targeted ads aren’t worth a damn to them – or to us.)

Krux allows consumers to opt of its data management platform, and is planning to roll out services that promise to “synchronize what you want Web sites to know about you with what Web sites actually track, making sure your Web experiences become more meaningful, less creepy” (or so the Krux Web site claims). But McLeod couldn’t say exactly when such services might be available.

Of course, Krux has a horse in this race too. The greater the perceived threat to publishers – the more they believe ad networks are sneaking around their backs to ‘steal’ their subscriber data – the more likely those publishers will be to hire Krux and deploy its products. Surveys like this one only help its cause.

For consumers, though, there are two key issues:

1. Your Web histories are being shared by more companies you don’t know Jack about and yet are asked to trust, implicitly, that they won’t de-anonymize this data or use it for things other than to serve ads (like, say, determining your eligibility for insurance, a loan, or a job).

2. This explosion of tracking cookies and the extra server calls they entail is slowing down everyone’s Web experience – a lot.

Of course, not all data collection is evil. Just as some cookies make your browsing experience better by helping the site remember who you are so you don’t have to re-enter your password every time, some data collection is necessary to gauge the effectiveness of ads or allow publishers to personalize sites for you.

McLeod likes to employ the ‘diner’ analogy when talking about ad targeting: 

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