Privacy v. Convenience

Let’s talk about ads. Specifically, targeted online ads. You can love them or hate them, but they’re still going to follow you around whenever you browse the Internet. And they are creepily going to be related to your previous Internet searches. While some may consider online behavioral advertising as intrusive and an invasion of privacy, others view it as a more efficient and effective form of advertising.


Personally, I’m torn between simultaneously loving and hating targeted ads.

Why I love them:

  • I would rather see ads for things that interested me than things I didn’t care about.
  • They can serve as a reminder to buy that thing I had shopped online for a few days ago. (like these Warby Parker glasses…thanks, Facebook ads)Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 5.06.01 PM
  • They’re convenient. Instead of having to Google Warby Parker, I could simply click the ad and be redirected to the company’s webpage.
  • They can introduce me to products that I never knew I wanted. For example, has a “Recommendations for You in Books” section that has a list of books related to my previous book purchases. Thanks to this feature I stumbled upon Tina Fey’s book Bossypants (because I had recently purchased Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please).

Why I hate them:

  • When used excessively, then can be obnoxious and distracting from what I am trying to focus on.
  • They can be embarrassing. After Spring Break swim suit shopping, I can’t scroll through Facebook or Mashable without passing an excessive number of ads with models in bikinis.

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 5.08.18 PM

  • They can be creepy to a certain degree. I spent a few minutes browsing through shoes on Nordstrom’s online store the other day, and the next day I saw ads for one specific pair of wedges I had clicked on pretty much every other website I visited. The specificity of this particular ad made me really realize how closely my activity on the Internet is being tracked.
  • I have a minor online shopping addiction, and targeted ads don’t make it any easier for me to quit. Yes, the ads are successfully serving their purpose of generating *clicks* and revenue. But this personally doesn’t mix well with my impulsive shopping tendencies.

Overall, I’m a fan of targeted advertising. Comparing my love/hate lists makes it clear to me that the pros outweigh the cons. I like it when ads are personally tailored to my interests, and if I have to give up my consumer privacy in order to see these relevant ads, then that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.


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