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Posted at 6:38 AM ET, 02/22/2011

PostPoints tip: Read a free site's pitch to advertisers

By Rob Pegoraro

When a site can afford to give its services away for free, there's usually something else being sold--and that something is often your possible attention to commercial breaks of one kind or another. It's a smart idea to read over a site's pitch to potential advertisers to see what sort of information they get about you and how they can reach you. You'll find that these documents explain your privacy far more clearly than the same sites' privacy policies.

See, for example, Google's introduction to its AdWords program, Facebook's explanation of its advertising options and Twitter's description of its "Promoted Products." All three make it clear that potential advertisers don't get to know you by name but then describe just how closely they can focus their appeals by using demographic and usage data provided by these sites. That may persuade you to rethink how much information you disclose at those sites, or it may just help you understand how a given ad came to land in your browser window. It's a good step in digital literacy either way.

(About the "PostPoints tip" title: I archive each tip-of-the-week e-mail we send to PostPoints members under this blog's "Tips" category. Today's item went out on Feb. 15.)

Meanwhile...

* My column expanded on the critique of Apple's new subscription-payment system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch that I posted here last week; in Sunday's piece, I countered two common defenses of Apple's conduct seen in responses to that post.

* In Help File, I discussed the relative security of BlackBerry and Android phones against two potential security threats: malicious software attacking each operating system and malicious people taking your phone.

By Rob Pegoraro  | February 22, 2011; 6:38 AM ET
Categories:  Tips  
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