Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Help Google give you better ads - and think about your identities!

Google is now targeting ads based on what it knows of your interests, but only a computer-specific basis.

So the next time someone at work fires up Gmail to launch a corporate video chat, you can review the ads on the overhead projector and find all about their hobbies -- or at least the hobbies they search about from work. Hopefully hobbies involving whips, manacles and pumpkins aren't part of workplace searching.

This is probably a good time to think about your identity management strategies. Remember, on the Internet everyone knows you're a dog. If you're using something like Google Video Chat for business communications you should fork out $10/year for a Google Apps domain (DreamHost recommended over eNom) and assign anyone wishes one a business-only Gmail ID.

In the meanwhile you may wish to review your Google Ads Preferences.

Now, it might have been nice if Google had made this an Opt-In program, but before we pull out the torches and pitchforks note that
  • You can Opt out from Google Ads Preferences.
  • The interest tracking is identity/machine specific. So if you search for dungeons and manacles at home, but search for seed varieties at work using the same Gmail account, your home machine will feature exotic ads and your work machine will have work ads.
  • If you search for rude things at work you may be in trouble, but since most corporations track work browsing you're in trouble anyway.
I'm going to use it to see if I can get Google to show me more interesting ads!

Update: I tried adding interests, but Google's "interest ontology" was pretty dull. It was also tedious to navigate. It also lacked key discriminators. I'm not interested in Windows hardware, but I am interested in iPhone or Apple hardware -- but those filters were missing. I gave up after a few minutes.

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