And Now, a Word from Our Sponsors

Received on Thursday, March 12th:

We’re writing to let you know about the upcoming launch of interest-based advertising, which will require you to review and make any necessary changes to your site’s privacy policies. You’ll also see some new options on your Account Settings page.

Interest-based advertising will allow advertisers to show ads based on a user’s previous interactions with them, such as visits to advertiser website and also to reach users based on their interests (e.g. “sports enthusiast”).  To develop interest categories, we will recognize the types of web pages users visit throughout the Google content network.  As an example, if they visit a number of sports pages, we will add them to the “sports enthusiast” interest category.  To learn more about your associated account settings, please visit the AdSense Help Center at http://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/topic.py?topic=20310.

As a result of this announcement, your privacy policy will now need to reflect the use of interest-based advertising. Please review the information at https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=100557 to ensure that your site’s privacy policies are up-to-date, and make any necessary changes by April 8, 2009.  Because publisher sites and laws vary across countries, we’re unfortunately unable to suggest specific privacy policy language.

For more information about interest-based advertising, you can also visit the Inside AdSense Blog at http://adsense.blogspot.com/2009/03/driving-monetization-with-ads-that.html.

We appreciate your participation and look forward to this upcoming enhancement.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

Er…my privacy policy? I don’t have one, per se, though there is a Disclosures page which I do recommend you look at if you haven’t done so yet, and which I’ll be updating with the new information. If you follow the second link above, you get the following information:

Google Advertising Cookie and Privacy Policies

What is the DoubleClick DART cookie?

The DoubleClick DART cookie is used by Google in the ads served on publisher websites displaying AdSense for content ads. When users visit an AdSense publisher’s website and either view or click on an ad, a cookie may be dropped on that end user’s browser. The data gathered from these cookies will be used to help AdSense publishers better serve and manage the ads on their site(s) and across the web.

What should I put in my privacy policy?

Your posted privacy policy should include the following information about Google and the DoubleClick DART cookie:

  • Google, as a third party vendor, uses cookies to serve ads on your site.
  • Google’s use of the DART cookie enables it to serve ads to your users based on their visit to your sites and other sites on the Internet.
  • Users may opt out of the use of the DART cookie by visiting the Google ad and content network privacy policy.

Because publisher sites and laws across countries vary, we’re unable to suggest specific privacy policy language. However, you may wish to review resources such as the Network Advertising Initiative, or NAI, which suggests the following language for data collection of non-personally identifying information:

We use third-party advertising companies to serve ads when you visit our website. These companies may use information (not including your name, address, email address, or telephone number) about your visits to this and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used by these companies, click here.

You can find additional information in Appendix A of the NAI Self-Regulatory principles for publishers (PDF). Please note that the NAI may change this sample language at any time.

If I understand this correctly, it means that Google plans to show my readers ads based on what it thinks interests them, not what they’re reading about. This appears to fly in the face of their standard context-based advertising, which assumes that people are interested in what they’re reading about. For that matter, even traditional print advertising tends to stick with a certain theme: ads in business magazines are not the same as ads in fashion magazines.

On the other hand, I have yet to collect any money whatsoever from Google AdSense, so clearly the people reading my blog aren’t all that interested in the traditional contextual ads. (Or they’re all reading the RSS feed and the ads aren’t showing up, or something.) So perhaps these new “interest-based” ads will be more effective. But something about them still makes me uncomfortable. I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t opt out of that DART cookie myself.

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