Google Keeps Tabs to Push Ads with Behavioral Advertising

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Big Brother is watching. And he wants to sell you a spatula. (You have been visiting cooking sites lately, right?)

Google stepped into this Orwellian world of advertising on Wednesday with “interest-based” ads – better known in the industry as behavioral ads – that will cater content to your interest by keeping tabs on the sites you visit. The program will begin immediately as a beta test on select partner sites and on YouTube.

“We think we can make online advertising even more relevant and useful by using additional information about the websites people visit,” the company explained in a blog post. “These ads will associate categories of interest — say sports, gardening, cars, pets — with your browser, based on the types of sites you visit and the pages you view. We may then use those interest categories to show you more relevant text and display ads.”

In the interest of stemming criticism, Google has made some concessions to privacy advocates. For one, Google has set up an Ad Preferences manager that allows users to add their own interests manually and opt out of certain categories. It also offers an “opt-out” cookie that users can embed in their browsers to keep interests from being tracked at all, and a browser plug-in that accomplishes the same thing.