Thursday, April 19, 2007

Google's Purchase of DoubleClick, and Opting Out...

Last week Google purchased DoubleClick for $3.1 billion, immediately drawing the ire of privacy advocates. The deal makes Google even more powerful in the world of internet advertising (which, if you think of Google as only a search engine, understand that it actually makes all its money from ads), and DoubleClick in particular has a notorious history of tracking internet users and collecting personal data on them.

Privacy advocates (as well as Microsoft) have already raised objections to the deal. Indeed, consolidating the internet ad market ought to trigger some alarms and be thoroughly scrutinized, but at least Google does have a strong track record of protecting people's personal data, having resisted U.S. government subpoenas last year.

What else can you, the user, do to protect yourself from being tracked by DoubleClick and its advertising brethren?

Virtually all browsers and anti-spyware programs allow you to delete tracking cookies, but cookies have become an integral part of cyberspace life - namely, personalizing web pages and remembering our login info - so deleting cookies every day isn't a practical solution. But here's something pro-active: Go to the Network Advertising Initiative's website and opt-out of all the various ad networks. You'll be amazed how many of the NAI networks are already tracking your online activities.

The Google-DoubleClick deal need not make people paranoid about their privacy, but caution is never a bad idea.


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