In the light of the British Government losing the Bank and National Insurance records of half the population, my mind cannot help but return to the corporate identity theft issues on our very doorstep. At SMX London the other day, the engines reiterated their commitment to protecting personal identities, but the truth is very different. Take Next’s website, for example – Indeed you can possibly take any website using the DoubleClick advertising platform that Google is trying to buy. Here’s what happens to me on EVERY PAGE of Next’s website at the moment:

Doubleclick security problem

This happens to me all over the web… and long may Spybot Search & Destroy keep picking up these invasions of privacy. What is happening here is that DoubleClick is trying to track my (personal) behaviour across multiple websites by setting third party cookies. In other words… it is one thing for Next to be able to know how I interact with their brand, but it is quite another for DoubleClick to be able to match that up with what toothpaste I bought or what concert I went to last week.

The future of online advertising and marketing is moving inextricably towards this profiling of your habits and interests. The new Facebook Social Advertising platform was a case in point. I am now able to target (and I quote from my Facebook campaign):

“liberal and moderate women between 18 and 65 years old in the United States who like acting, agatha christie, diagnosis murder, dressing up, gaming, going parties, murder by death, murder by numbers, murder she wrote, party, partying, partys, playing games, sherlock holmes, or theme parties.”

Put it another way… if you are trying to recruit a sadistic, murdering ex-con with suicidal tendencies… Facebook probably knows how to touch base with them.

People where saying that Microsoft were mad to value Facebook at $15 billion when they bought 5% the other week. But that’s not all they bought. They bought exclusive rights to the advertising platform and that – presumably – means they have access to this API data. That’s valuable I would say! They have all the information they need to profile a widget building republican from Ohio without any risk of being sued for using it. Sure, someone can sue Facebook – providing they can wade though Facebook’s privacy policy but I doubt more that a dozen of Facebook’s millions upon millions of users read that lot when they signed up!

DoubleClick, however, may be altogether more sinister in my opinion. My guess is that many of the sites using DoubleClick have their own attitudes towards privacy. Next’s starts with: “Next Directory take on-line security very seriously”. I doubt the lawayer writing that had any idea that Next had effectively sold their user data down the river by using DoubleClick. In fact… They talk about all sorts of things in their policy, but not about DoubleClick:


Now I know what you are thinking… 

  1. I am going to get letters from lawyers of Next and DoubleClick? well – maybe – but I think they should work towards a solution, not start with idle threats, because I didn’t fake those screenshots.
  2. You are saying that you’d NEVER do a thing like that.

Oh yeah?

  • what tracking system are YOU using?
  • What ISP are you using?
  • What WiFi connection are you accepting visitors from?
  • What Plugins are you recommending?

Nobody is taking personal privacy seriously – let alone ourselves. Big Brother is now pretty well anyone willing to pay for the data and yet we all point the finger and say “but that wasn’t MY fault”. In the meantime, I buy the Facebook profile targeted adverts and still try to claim I’m a white hat SEO. In the meantime – I’ll let you know if Next or Doubleclick or Facebook would like me to modify this post.

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