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back to article Users: 'Personalized internet? Fuggedaboutit!'

A new research report will make worrying reading for Google and social media companies, as it shows that most consumers don't want their online activity used to personalize search results or advertising. The study of 2,253 adults, conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life, found that 73 per cent of search-engine users didn't …

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WTF?

Adverts?!?

Who reads them, anyway?

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Re: Adverts?!?

More to the point, who sees them?

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Re: Adverts?!?

If there's a report of a terrible disease sweeping your city, do you dismiss it as irrelevant because you had knowledge of an inoculation, but most other people didn't?

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Re: Adverts?!?

@David W.

No, I dismiss it because it's more H3N1 ammonia flu pandemic scares that are far less deadly than the regular flu and somehow "the media" seems to think that because it seems to be transmitted by albino newts that we should be better prepared for fear that it might kill .02 people per billion but it is spreading faster than any other known disease that they have reported in the last two weeks. Sorry, I know the actual importance but there is this whole concept of crying wolf at the first sign of a dog hair that has me somewhat inured to the whole thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Adverts?!?

It is a form of censorship, they decide what they serve up to you, they decide what you see, they decide what interests you.

If that's not censorship then what is.

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@David W. (was: Re: Adverts?!?)

I let those around me know of issues in my field of specialt[y|ies] if I think it might affect their lives in the RealWorld[tm].

The people who refuse to listen to me ... refuse to listen to me.

::shrugs:: ... Evolution continues.

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Devil

Re: Adverts?!?

Are you saying Google is a terrible disease?

(And if not, why not?)

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Re: Adverts?!?

The difference, of course, being that they aren't stopping you from getting information through something else. No, you didn't chose what would go up on that huge sign outside your flat, or what advert they might show on TV, but you also have the choice to ignore it.

Need I remind you there are some countries who have no choice at all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Adverts?!?

Censorship in the broad sense is when the government prevents certain information from being disseminated, redacts it before distribution, or issues penalties for distribution.

Censorship can be defined as occuring on a local level - for instance, you could say that El Reg is performing censorship when it refuses to publish your forum comment offering sexual favors to Andrew Orlowski. But that's moderation, not censorship. And obviously El Reg deciding not to have forums at all wouldn't be censorship ('what they serve up to you'').

Anyone who makes stuff you might go look at is 'deciding what they serve up to you', and certainly, in that sense, decide what you see. But only if you watch what they make. Their making something they think you might be interested in is just about as far as it gets from censorship! Put another way: By your logic, -you're- censoring because you're choosing what to write about, and I'm censoring because I only choose what I serve up to you and what you see. Sorry, but it's utter nonsense.

Basically, a censor is *preventing you from doing something under any circumstances*. If a company has a monopoly on internet access in your area and does DPI to get rid of mentions of its competitors, then that is effectively censorship of the internet for that area.

But if TLC refuses to post your complaint about the immorality of 'Toddlers and Tiaras', that's *not* censorship, since they have a right to decide what content goes on their own servers; after all, forcing them, or you, to host material you don't like would be almost as bad as real censorship. And you can bitch about Toddlers and Tiaras anywhere you like.

*Censorship* is when a guy in China posts a blog entry with the wrong keywords, and it vanishes from the internet ten minutes later. Censorship is when independent-minded Russian broadcasters are 'convinced' to alter their opinions of Vladimir Putin. Censorship is when the Australian government makes it illegal to buy M-rated games. Censorship is when the German government outlaws depictions of Nazis.

Censorship is *not* when the only thing on television is reality shows, or when you get annoying ads served to you, or when you're beaten in the street and have your watch taken.

Arguing that someone choosing what to publish is censorship is absurdity.

There's a lot of bad shit out there. But defining anything in the media world you don't like as 'censorship' does more harm than good. There might well be really bad things about what you dislike, but you shouldn't call something 'censorship' if it isn't censorship - not any more than you'd call a stealthy midnight bank job a mugging. Stick to going after the real thing instead of madly waving your arms without really knowing why.

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Re: Adverts?!?

Censorship is some other bugger removing information before it gets to you. End of.

El Reg removing commentard posts because they don't want their faces sued off is still censorship. For excellent reasons and I support El Reg in this (the mods haven't deleted a single one of my posts that I wouldn't have when I sobered up, anyway) as I like the site and want it to keep on being here. I don't think advertising is censorship because it's just deciding which flavour of horseshit you're gonna get shovelled at you...you're going to get a set amount shovelled; and if you're sensible you either won't read it or you've screened it out anyway; but nothing is being removed. Piled on, if anything.

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Re: Adverts?!?

"Censorship can be defined as occurring on a local level"

No. It can not. I categorically reject that concept.

Only a .gov can be a censor.

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Headmaster

@moiety Re: Adverts?!?

Censorship is when you're being denied *ALL* channels to disseminate your message. Which only an entity like a government, or the Illuminati, can put into effect.

Not being allowed to post on El Reg doesn't stop you from publishing your missive elsewhere.

Forum moderation is not, and can not be, censorship.

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Headmaster

@David W. Re: Adverts?!?

Err, do you rely on adverts for such information? If not, can you elucidate this non-sequitur?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Adverts?!?

I was thinking about that distinction, actually; initially I'd have gone with your position, but as the guy below says, it's also about all avenues of dissemination being blocked. If a corporate entity becomes powerful enough, it gains that ability, to wit: a monopoly on internet access. For certain communication methods, the alternatives just aren't equivalent, or useful at all - getting your message across via the internet can't be replaced by putting up fliers on the local college campus.

So, while the vast majority of cases are governmental, I think it -is- possible for corporations to become quasi-governmental organizations (fascist-style?) in their control over certain media.

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Re: @David W. Adverts?!?

It's an analogy, not a non-sequitur - the poster was ignoring [Bad Thing]'s effect on the broader population - and, what's more, stating that it is not in *any case* worthy of attention - because he himself was is affected by [Bad Thing]. It's an even more insidious variation of "They came for the Jews, but I did not speak up, because I was not a Jew".

My post was an attempt - apparently lost on a good percentage of people here, due to either their or my failure at English comprehension and / or morals - to frame that attitude in a way that would make its fundamental callousness more clear. The annoyance of online advertising is hardly a human rights issue, but if the OP's attitude was general policy (that is, if the OP is not a hypocrite) it would be a pretty gruesome world.

Basically, my point is: don't be a dick. Don't think that other people don't deserve fairness or respect because they don't know what you do. If nothing else, the day may come with the -OP- doesn't know something -another- person does - and he will likely be upset if, in time of need, that person sticks out his tongue and says, "Too bad, sucker! I guess you should know better than to not know what I know!"

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Re: Adverts?!?

Even more to the point: who in their right mind ever clicks on one?

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Re: @David W. Adverts?!?

I still fail to see the relevance in comparing someone's attitude towards adverts with their supposed attitude towards general information, as if those are sufficiently equal to be comparable, and also that people are insufficiently capable of distinghuising them and applying the same 'filtering' rules to them.

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My "relationship" with any online web entity should end the moment I close my browser.

I do not want a new best friend constantly looking over my shoulder, checking my email and texts then suggesting things I should spend money on.

That is what the girlfriend is for.

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MIc
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lolz

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@NoneSuch

Dump her. She doesn't trust you. Even the wife doesn't micromanage me like that.

The Whippet, on the otherhand ...

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Happy

Targeted Advertising?

Even I know the wobblywebbler can trace yer every move. It's a bit different from the traditional TV - nobody knew what you were watching so feedback was not available. Maybe it's time for CB's again - "watch out for the smokey in the bush" etc. Would loads of users with encryption of some sort feck all these web2.0 Advertising Revenue business models? I do not know, honestly!

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The reason I don't like it is - well, plenty of people search for personal things. I'm afraid that those searches will "leak" into other aspects of my web use, specifically cases in which someone else is looking at the screen with me - which is pretty common at work (the whole "teamwork" bit) and even more common outside of work.

I have no problem with the principle - it'll get better results, great - except for the issue with leaking information to people in the real world who you would not choose to share it with. Sure, if those people tried to snoop, they could find it, but I worry that this could present that information to them WITHOUT them trying to snoop.

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Facepalm

Personl stuff? You mean a bit like where this guys 1st wife was given a "people you may know" suggestion by Farcebook and it turns out to be the guys 2nd wife? (Note. He'd not divorced the first wife yet)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-17323095

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Anonymous Coward

"You mean a bit like where this guys 1st wife was given a "people you may know" suggestion...

Well, he was using a *social networking* web site which advertises its ability to *connect you with people you may know*. It did precisely that. Normally, someone you're quite close with will know other people with whom -you- are quite close. The fact that his relationships with those people were... unorthodox... isn't Facebook's fault - particularly when he put his own information on there for the express purpose of other people seeing it!

Facebook is hardly a shining angel, but in this case, condemning it for that recommendation is a bit like having a peanut analogy, going to eat at a place called "The Nut Bar", and bitching that they served you peanuts when you asked for them to give you a bunch of nuts your friends like.

...I should start a Nut Bar. It'd be massive!

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MNB

how can you tell...

"73 per cent felt the data they got was accurate"

but that's all you get, a feeling. At the end of the day you can't search the internet youself, you can only compare Google's results against the rest. And only then if you can be bothered.

I imagine a more telling statistic would be what percentage of users use more than one search engine for a given query to even allow objective comparisons to be made. I expect that number to be close to zero.

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Duckduckgo...

I've pretty much given up on using Google for general searches, in favour of Duckduckgo. Silly name but it does the job, and at least makes an attempt to show the user some respect.

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ql
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Re: Duckduckgo...

Yeah, DDG and privoxy feels like Google did in their early days. A breath of fresh air.

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DJV
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Re: Duckduckgo...

Cheers Adair

Duckduckgo now added to my browser's list of search engines!

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Anonymous Coward

Its always interesting to translate activity on the web into real world equivalents

Imaging: you are wandering round the shops

You realise that you are being followed by a guy with a notepad. He peers over your shoulder as you wander round, He makes notes of what you look at, checks a list and reaches past you every so often, changing the shelf-edge ads and offers to what he thinks you will be interested in. Every so often he hands a copy of his list to his mates, for them to check, in exchange for a bob or two.

Now, hands up those of you who would expect the guy to need expensive dental treatment in the very near future.

Behavioural advertising is just like that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Its always interesting to translate activity on the web into real world equivalents

'Behavioural advertising is just like that.' - Yes, just like plans to monitor every email are like sending snailmail letters and Royal Mail delivering them first to GCHQ to scan - like you get in chokey (only without the delivering to GCHQ part), and every phone call being recorded - like the Stasi would have had technology been up to it back then - and yet very few of us object!

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Personally tailored adverts are good.

I love adverts. Adverts more closely tailored to my browsing history can only be a good thing.

In the run up to Christmas I received a brazillion email ads for all sorts of stuff. To be fair the vast majority of them didn't really interest me but in amongst all the chaff were a couple of tasty gems. I picked up one of those Toshiba 1.8inch 120GB drives for 38 quid. That is an absolutely cracking bargain.

I also got a Lexar 32GB C10 micro SDHC card for 22 quid - another cracking bargain.

And I got an external USB powered DVD writer for my netbook for 20 quid. One of the ones that can act as AV connectivity for your telly.

These are things that I wanted but just couldn't find for the price I wanted to pay... until I got the targeted email advertisement.

Getting the stuff you want for the price you want to pay has got to be a good thing.

The real problem is I bought 3 three things from the hundreds of emails I received. If those emails were better targeted to me then I would get more bargains and less chaff to delete.

That has to be a good thing.

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Re: Personally tailored adverts are good.

I wonder if your paid for ad trolling has actually fooled anyone

Do share, this has to be a good thing.

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Re: Personally tailored adverts are good.

This article isn't even about e-mails. Its about targeted advertising across then net.

I don't even know anyone who receives "hundreds of emails" worth of ads. I honestly thought that went out with the popularity of @AOL.com.

To the general public those ads are spam, and the problem has been handled to the point where there is not a noticeable amount making it through to our in box.

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Re: Personally tailored adverts are good.

You actually like, and respond to, email spam?

You are a part of the problem.

::plink::

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Re: Personally tailored adverts are good.

Of course I'm not talking about responding to random spam. I'm talking about responding to advertising from retailers that I have dealt with before who are telling me about specific offers they have that might interest me.

It is all too easy to become conditioned to respond to all advertising as being bad. Apart from all the very useful services on the web that advertising pays allows to be offered for "free" (including this site) it is also an opportunity for consumers to be made aware of stuff they might like to buy.

The problem at the moment is that the process is far too random and we all end getting inundated with crap. All that I am saying is that it would seem to make sense to support ideas that have the potential to cut down on the crap.

And for the record I have no connection with any advertising or marketing firm in any way, shape or form.

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Anonymous Coward

"...Apart from all the very useful services on the web that advertising pays allows to be offered for "free" (including this site)..."

There are adverts on this website [or any others I frequent]?

Fancy that!

</ obligatory adblock plug>

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Trollface

Shill much?

"I love adverts. Adverts more closely tailored to my browsing history can only be a good thing.

In the run up to Christmas I received a brazillion email ads for all sorts of stuff. To be fair the vast majority of them didn't really interest me but in amongst all the chaff were a couple of tasty gems. I picked up one of those Toshiba 1.8inch 120GB drives for 38 quid. That is an absolutely cracking bargain..."

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FAIL

Re: Personally tailored adverts are good.

It really is scary how badly you guys have been conditioned.

All I hear is "ads are bad", "I block all ads", "I not only block all ads but I install software that was advertised to me to help me block all ads". Feel free to miss out on the bargains. Also feel free to miss the entire point of the article.

Why not do the right thing and block all ad supported websites as well.

Leeches.

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Re: Personally tailored adverts are good.

Stalkvertising is NOT good - for one thing I doesn't work, and will never work, the reason being that the stalkvertisers only know the WHAT of what we are buying/looking at - they do not know the WHY - until they have a way of determining the why, stalkvertising will always provide useless, flawed and laughable results.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Personally tailored adverts are good.

"...It is all too easy to become conditioned to respond to all advertising as being bad..."

Works well for me. But it was choice rather than conditioning.

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Ad trolling... maybe not

I suspect that you may be correct and this was an ad troll, but maybe he's onto something. If I want targeted advertisements then perhaps using a separate browser would be useful. I'm not certain about where the data is stored but could you lock up Chrome for instance and set it to forget everything when the browser is closed but use IE9 to do your shopping?

You'd use chrome to search for your porn^w private stuff and IE to shop. The problem is that I'm not sure that the data is segregated enough for this to be effective. Perhaps add another user to your computer and segregate the data that way? Get the benefit (if any) of targeted advertising and keep the benefit of anonymous surfing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ad trolling... maybe not - Even better

Do your search and as much browsing as you can using a read-only media.

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Happy

Re: Ad trolling... maybe not

Chrome?

Do you really mean to say that you trust a browser from Google?

You'd be better off switching to the IRON browser, Chrome stripped of all the Google tracking stuff.

Alternatively try Firefox with Adblock Plus, Beef Taco, Noscript and so on. Keeps the ads at bay and stops a lot of tracking.

Also think about Duckduckgo, the newish search engine.

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Iron

Thanks for [to use a horrible 'merkin' expression] the "heads up" on Iron browser.

I've just spent twenty mins installing it and packaging all my extensions and theme across from Chrome. Result: I now get to use a clone of my favourite browser, without worrying about what it's talking to Google about behind my back.

Saved a bit of disc space too. Iron is 77MB. Chrome [which is now binned] weighed in at a hefty 330MB. That's a lot of extra code devoted to snitching!

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Meh

Re: Ad trolling... maybe not - Even better

"Do your search and as much browsing as you can using a read-only media."

There is a point where pragmatism becomes paranoia.

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Meh

I think I ignore adverts

When I am looking for something and use Google I can only think of 1 occasion where I clicked on a Google advert. The rest of the time, my eyes instinctively move away from the adverts.

When using Gmail, the only time I have clicked on one of its adverts was when I was checking my spam and I clicked on a spam recipe link.

If adverts are more intrusive, they are negative. The more intrusive or attention grabbing, the more negative effect they have. I see a lot less of those adverts nowadays. Presumably, they have a similar affect on other people.

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WTF?

hold the phone, here...

...If email is the most popular thing, and searching is the next most popular, wtf are people doing -after- they search for stuff? Apparently not actually reading it. There's more searching than anything else, so what makes up the difference? Are people just searching for the hell of it?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: hold the phone, here...

Don't expect too much logic from statistics.

It's likely the people being surveyed have developed the same technique I use, whilst doing those 50p a go surveys on sites like YouGov; With a bit of peripheral vision training, I can usually complete one in less than a minute or two, whilst my attention is on something else —and without even reading the questions.

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