AOL Works To Allay Fears of Behaviorally Targeted Ads

With behaviorally targeted advertising becoming more and more popular, some Internet users are wishing to remain anonymous. AOL is planning an effort to educate users about the technology, as well as offer new ways to opt out.

The internet company is hoping to educate the public more about this method of advertising in hopes that Internet users will become more apt to participate. Ads using the technology are set to become a large part of the AOL banner ad network by the end of the year.

"Our goal with this program is to engender greater trust for targeted advertising," Platform-A vice president Curt Viebranz said. "AOL believes that doing more to explain to users the choices they have over the way their data is used, and helping them exercise those preferences will help them feel more in control."

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Behaviorally targeted ads have already made it onto the Tacoda network, which AOL acquired in late July. The company's focus is on this type of ad, which is expected to become a $3.8 billion business within the next four years.

At the same time, many Internet users are leery of letting a company store information about their surfing habits. Essentially, the issue seems to come down to one of privacy: a user wants to keep what he or she does on the Internet private.

While AOL hopes that the education program will cause some to change their minds, it does understand some will still want to opt out. Thus the company is introducing new opt-out technology.

Older opt-out technologies were cookie-based, meaning if a user ever deleted their cookies, they would be opted back in to the behavioral targeting. Instead, it uses web-cache technology to store the preference, which would remain even if a user deletes his or her cookies.

AOL is offering to license the technology to other advertising firms on a royalty-free basis, it said.

"We want to make the opt-out process as simple and transparent as possible," privacy chief Jules Polonetsky said. "We urge the industry to join us in ensuring that users who take steps to minimize the data they provide have their choices maintained."

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