Website Ads, Oh Google!

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Website Ads, Oh Google! a reader asks…

I use Google Chrome (and Gmail). I’ve been noticing that websites (including yours) are starting to show me advertising that’s laser-like in its focus. The ads are for stuff I was just looking at sometimes, and certainly things I’ve been looking at online. It’s a little creepy that these websites know so much about my web-surfing habits. Should I be worried?

I’m going to say ‘not really’ – the websites you visit (including mine) don’t know anything about you that you don’t tell them directly (by creating an account), or by visiting the site (which only gives some information). What’s happening is that my website (and others) uses Google AdWords, a product for delivering advertising on-demand to visitors. I never see what ads are showing on your screen, and have no ability to get anything more than generalized information from Google about aggregate website visits. In short, I can’t track your web-surfing habits and neither can any of these other websites that use Google AdWords.

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Not so for Google itself. Google has massive amounts of information about you, and uses that knowledge to make sure that you are bombarded by relevant advertising in the hopes that you click on one and buy something. Google is pretty strict about it’s policy to protect your individual privacy from others, so all that info about you is kept inside Google.
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By showing those ads on my website, I get a very teensy amount of money, which ostensibly helps me to give away my advice without charging a fee. Believe me, the earnings are in the hundreds of dollars per year, coming nowhere close to covering my basic website expenses. And if you’ve perused my website, I advise consumers to avoid clicking on advertising in websites, since the webmaster has no real control over what ads are shown. 3rd party advertisers are free to create anything they like, and sometimes embedded advertising contains links to dodgy websites. Don’t go there, don’t click on advertising. If you are interested in a product you see, open a new tab or browser window and go directly to a well-known website to shop for the item.

There are currently 674 reader comments on my articles, care to join in? Use the Leave a Comment form below/at the bottom of any existing comments. This is a good place to ask follow-on questions on this subject.

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