Dataveillance: How (and Why) It’s Done [10:19 pm]
Still, just how personal even â€œanonymousâ€ information can be was shown vividly last week as a list of three months of search queries from 657,000 AOL customers began circulating online. Collectively, a personâ€™s Web searches, it turns out, can create an eerily intimate portrait â€” one that some privacy advocates say should never be assembled and stored in the first place.
Still, Web companies continue refining their techniques. Advertising on search engines is already a $14-billion-a-year business because the ads can be so closely tied to what people are looking for. Yahooâ€™s system is meant to use search queries and other actions to select ads people see while checking their e-mail and reading other pages.
AOL is working on a similar system to display ads for products related to a personâ€™s Web search history. MSN from Microsoft just introduced technology to do the same. And other companies use systems that bring together information about users from across many sites.
Internet companies call this behavioral targeting, and it is based on the insight that knowing what people do online can be more valuable to a marketer than knowing how old they are or what they do for a living.