Anyone who uses the internet will be aware of the pop-up banners asking to allow or deny cookies. These cookies are designed to gather information about what you like and topics that interest you. Read on to learn about personalised advertising.
Websites have always gathered information. But the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a major data privacy law, was enacted in the European Union in May 2018. This meant that websites legally had to be more transparent about the data they capture.
By accepting cookies, you are saying that it’s ok for the website you visit to build a profile to gauge who is visiting the site. Alternatively, you are sharing your information with advertisers. In some cases, you’ll be doing both.
The latter is a means of personalising the adverts you see. By telling a website that you like the content, the adverts that you see again will often be for the item you were looking at on a different site. This means the adverts are personalised to meet your preferences.
How Are Ads Personalised?
It’s not just website cookies that lead to personalised advertising. Social media users have been targeted based on their interests. This has been the case ever since Facebook and other social media platforms started to allow advertising. From groups they’ve joined to adverts they have clicked on, people with social media accounts are being targeted based on the things they like.
Additionally, tools like Google Ads generate paid adverts related to keywords users type into the search bar. These ads will appear at the top of the search results page. As well as web searches, Google tracks you and your preferences through things like the videos you watch on YouTube.
Daniel Markuson of Nord VPN said: “Unless you’ve spent your entire life without ever touching any connected device and without signing up for any service, you most likely have a lot of data attached to your online identity.
“If you single one or a few data points out, it might seem like a harmless thing to disclose when filling your information in some online form…But when thousands of separate data points of your online activity are gathered in one place, one can paint a pretty clear picture of your real-life identity. And then it becomes a tempting target for third parties…after all that, you might see a targeted ad for a new set of chess figures.”
What Are The Pros of Personalised Adverts?
There are benefits that come with accepting personalised adverts. First, ads are more relevant. This means that people are more likely to find what they’re looking for. This, in turn, improves the user experience and customer journey.
“So, let’s take that chess set example,” said Daniel. “If you are lucky enough and that chess set is something you actually need but would have never found by yourself, it is a successful case.”
Personalised adverts also work well for marketers as the number of users who engage is a tangible data set that can be used in the future. Also, it’s good for businesses that are doing the advertising, especially if they can get a sale out of it.
What Are The Cons of Personalised Adverts?
While there are upsides, there are also disadvantages. There are privacy concerns to account for. While users can click on the cookies option, it’s still possible for data to be picked up by websites and for this data to fall into the wrong hands.
Also, there’s the issue of adverts not actually being relevant. Sometimes we click on a website by mistake. This then follows our journey on other websites.
“You might get bombarded on different sites and social pages by the same obtrusive ad for a thing you don’t need,” said Daniel. “Why? Only because you happened to open some random online shop page. We all want a certain level of convenience, but the question is at what cost, and more importantly, do we know that cost?”
Making a Decision
Users do have the choice, but it’s not always apparent. Sometimes cookies will be tricky to opt out of. In other cases, the option to turn off personalised ads is tucked away within the settings on a user’s social media account.
There are ways to keep your data safe, however. Introducing something like a multi-device VPN, for example, protects your online identity. It also hides your IP address across several devices.
It’s worth taking the time to check through your privacy settings on apps and devices too. This can be time-consuming, but it can also mean your data isn’t freely available.