Ever notice how after you are online shopping for the newest pair of boots, then, hours later, you go back on the Internet to listen to Pandora or some other site, and BAM, there are the boots advertised conspicuously on the side bar. You feel like you are being watched. You might start to wonder, is something following me? Do not fret. There is an explanation. It’s called behavioral advertising.

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Behavioral advertising is a technique used by online advertisers in order to market specific ads to consumers based on their previous browser history. Specifically, researcher, Lisa Bernard, mentions that sites visited, length of visit and content viewed are all information collected that can be turned into meaningful online behavior patterns.

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Targeted advertisements especially on socially entertaining sites such as, Facebook, allow for ease of use. Consumers are just one click away from finding the original site of the advertised product. It seems every site on the Internet has advertisements. Thus, as we use the Internet to entertain ourselves through social media, gaming, or listening to music,  we must strive to be informed consumers and be aware of the touchy issues surrounding the Web.

Vivian points out the key to good advertising is resonating with consumers’ relevant tastes. However, is collecting personal online behavior taking it too far?

How far can we take advertising before it becomes too creepy?

Of course, people inherently like feeling like they are unique individuals with specific interests. However, in this context, consumer’s feel there is lack of consent to release their personal information. We feel as though this is an intrusion of privacy and may become paranoid about what else about our online lives is being tracked.

Jeff Chester reiterates this point by saying, “retargeting has helped turn on a light bulb for consumers. […] It illustrates that there is a commercial surveillance system in place online that is sweeping in scope and raises privacy and civil liberties issues, too.”

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Why does this matter?

As behavioral advertising brings up valid discussions about breaches in privacy, we are only left to wonder whether we, as a society, value convenience so much that we are willing to compromise our basic human rights. The government provides tips for us to protect ourselves online, but even that information is limited. We must continue to question the motives of these advertisers.  Do advertisements truly have our best personalized interest at heart or is behavioral advertising purely a creative capitalist move for collecting the almighty dollar?


Barnard, Lisa. The Cost of Creepiness: How Online Behavioral Advertising Affects Consumer Purchase Intention. Diss. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2014. Ann Arbor: ProQuest, 2014. Print.

Vivian, John. “Advertising.” The Media of Mass Communication. 11th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2013. 18 Mar. 2015. Print.

“Retargeting Ads Follows Surfers to Other Sites”

Protect Your Privacy Online