Help, Internet ads are stalking me!

The same Web ads are following me from site to site, but they're neither interesting nor effective. Is this really the future of Internet advertising?

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For the last few years I have suspected that something or someone is following me around the InterWebs. Now, finally, I have proof.

Surfing the Net on my Samsung Galaxy tablet recently, I noticed something peculiar. No matter what site I visited, I was seeing the same exact advertisement from a company that sells iPods which have been modified to be waterproof.

The reason? Last week I had visited this Web site and sent an email to the owner, asking for a review unit for a gift guide I am co-authoring for a large consumer magazine. Personally, I don’t give a damn about listening to music when I swim, but my wife (and co-author) does, and I was requesting it on her behalf.

I never got an answer to that email. I never went back to that site. They just blew their chance for national coverage. But their ads now won’t leave me alone, even though I have no flippin’ interest in that product.

This is targeted advertising in action.

On my desktop I don’t have this problem, or at least not as much of one. Why? Because I opted out of online targeting via the Network Advertising Initiative’s Opt Out cookie, and I added the Keep My Opt Outs extension to the Chrome browser, so even if my cookies are deleted my privacy preferences are retained. I also use tools like Abine’s Do Not Track Plus, and as an added measure, my copy of Norton Online Security is set to detect and delete tracking cookies.

So what happens when I visit those same sites from my desktop? I see a different generic ad – lately it’s one for NBC’s coverage of the London Olympics, despite the fact the Olympics are now over. On my tablet, though, none of those things are at play. I am fresh meat to the Internet advertising industry.

It was a Google ad, so I tapped the AdChoices triangle in the corner to get more information, which led me to my Google Ad Preferences page. There I got to see which ad categories Google had placed me in, based on my Web history:

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