Yes, this freaked me out a bit. I’m not saying Behavioral Targeting (BT) is an inherently bad thing, but even a little exploration into what companies are tracking you online can be alarming. Jeff Jarvis and others have made valid arguments to as to why BT benefits the consumer. For example, without it, a consumer would see the dancing monkey ads everywhere he went online. I can understand the argument, but when I put my consumer hat on, I’d like to be invited to opt in to BT cookies rather than have them forced upon me by some below-the-radar data company. We’ve established opt-in rules in other contexts and they could be easily applied here. If the BT companies can make their case for value for the consumer, then let them make that argument and invite me to opt in to their “service.” And allow me to see and easily modify the profile you keep on me. Let’s see if the value proposition for the consumer holds up in the broad daylight of transparency.
Here’s a link to a tool provided by The NAI (Network Advertising Initiative), a cooperative of online marketing and analytics companies, that allows you to see the status of cookies and opt out from just member companies (read not ALL companies, just their members). It allows you to see who is tracking you and who isn’t yet tracking you. Wow.