By Jeff Zwelling, CEO
There are numerous benefits to the ever-increasing capabilities of the Internet, but as is normally the case, these perks don’t come without certain sacrifices. Lately, the sacrifice discussed most often is lack of privacy, a quality that is apparent when we observe the accuracy of targeted advertising. Anyone who spends even a minimal amount of time online has surely noticed oddly relevant ads scattered throughout visited website pages – ads that may soon become even more on-point thanks to recent changes in our email user agreements. Yahoo! just announced that it will follow in Gmail’s footsteps by adjusting the language in its agreements to allow for automated scans of email content, which will help the company determine the best possible ads to target at a particular user. This has caused many to ask, “When it comes to privacy invasion, how far is too far?”
There are some who feel that any invasion at all is too much, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those who can appreciate what these so-called invasions have to offer. For example, if you’re looking for a custom-suit maker and later that day an ad for e-tailer Indochino appears in your sidebar, has harm been caused or was this helpful? Perhaps the advertising industry isn’t trying to scare or bother us, but rather just trying to present relevant information to us to make our lives a little easier? At what point does this type of ad targeting move from helpful to annoying and invasive?
These are all questions worth asking when thinking about this issue, and I shared my perspective on these topics on Bloomberg West with Jon Erlichman earlier this month. Click here to listen to what I had to say, and specifically what I think about how Yahoo’s user agreement will affect advertising.