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Web Users Hate Targeted Online Ads, But That's Not Stopping Them

Looks like convenience beats fears of Big Brother.

Seven out of 10 Internet users of Web-based applications like Gmail or Photoshop said they would be "very concerned" if the companies that run those technologies analyzed personal data for targeted ads, according to a survey released today by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Yet that doesn't seem to stop them from using those Internet applications that store massive volumes of data in servers strewn around the nation, a trend called cloud computing that has been embraced by Google, Salesforce.com and Amazon.

As debates over privacy and intellectual property policies take shape in Washington, seven out of 10 online users have used several cloud computing applications like Web-based mail and online video and photo sharing and storage sites, according to the survey.

John Horrigan, the associate director of research for the Pew Internet project, explained that despite concerns over privacy, Internet use of cloud computing applications has exploded because of their convenience and ability to share information with others.

"People are very obviously making trade-offs in privacy when they engage in these behaviors. That means they are weighing the pluses and minuses," Horrigan said at a discussion on the Pew report and its policy implications hosted by Google's Washington D.C. office.

Google, which gets most of its revenue from ads, already use data on people's search habits to target ads that personally cater to the users' interests. The company recently changed its privacy policy for its new Chrome Web browser after criticism that the company would use the Internet Protocol addresses typed into the browser to create richer profiles of users.
In a story earlier this week by Post colleague Ellen Nakashima, Jane Horvath, Google's senior privacy counsel, said that the company would be anonymizing the Internet Protocol address and the cookies that track users when they type search terms or Web pages into Chrome's Omnibox, an all-in-one search and address bar.

By Cecilia Kang  |  September 12, 2008; 2:19 PM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
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I like targeted ads: they are more relevant and often useful. Do the people who say they are "very concerned" know what is being collected, or are they just reflecting media sensationalism?

Compare that with the data held by the CREDIT RATING agencies and the effort that is required (I hear) to get it corrected, or the data an employer can find in a BACKGROUND CHECK and never shares with the subject.

Posted by: Politically Naive | September 15, 2008 2:19 PM

2 days ago I googled for the nuumber of the Radiolgy dept in a Glasgow hospital. Today I received spam mail offering Radiology courses.

Posted by: Davy Mckenziw | September 18, 2008 6:45 AM

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