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Google Toys with Behavioral Advertising, Keeps Users Apprised

Today Google will unveil revised privacy measures that give users more control over behavioral targeting.

When Google serves banner ads on publishers' sites, ads will feature links that explain how and why they were served. Clicking through will lead to information about its behavioral advertising program — which terraces consumers based on interests in goods or services, reports MediaPost.

The program is currently only in beta. But once a sufficient number of publishers have joined, consumers will be able to view what categories they've been listed in — and also tell Google to remove them from given categories as they see fit. A separate browser plug-in will enable them to opt out of the program permanently, or opt in to specific types of product offerings.

VP-Public Policy Mike Zaneis of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) praised Google's actions. "It's really a consumer empowerment tool, which is great," he said. "It's one more example of how industry is competing on the privacy issue, to the benefit of consumers–and also to the benefit of businesses."

But others were more skeptical about the details. Counsel Amina Fazlullah for media and telecommunications at the US Public Interest Research Group argued that an opt-out system means only sophisticated, privacy-minded consumers will make use of the new controls.

"If they asked people, 'Do you really want to be followed around and served ads,' most people would say no. Most of us don't really value advertising in any solid way."

A recent survey found three in five web users think sites track their behavior. This month, Google was one of a number of major search providers that signed off on new behavioral advertising guidelines released for the UK market by the IAB. Guidelines included stipulations that users must be given clear information about how their data is used, and a means to opt out.

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