Imagine yourself watching online TV. A notification sound from your mobile phone alerts you to an incoming message from a popular entertainment brand X. It reads, “Enjoy your favorite TV show ABC on brand X app”. You choose to check out the ABC show online instead, immediately. That’s positive advertising all right!
Let’s take the example forward. You searched online stores for swimwear on your laptop, in the privacy of your home – convenient shopping at its best! Next day at the office, you connect your laptop to the internet during a presentation to show something online…. and… Swimwear in floral and fine cuts are all over the web pages you are accessing!!
Not good at all.
Advertisers are mercilessly stalking us online with irrelevant and unwanted advertisements. According to Kantar TNS, a global research agency, almost 50% Indian internet users feel that advertisers follow them constantly online. They also feel that most online campaigns are uncontrolled and intrusive which ruin the consumer experience more than initiating any delight as they should.
Consumers feel intruded and encroached upon by unwanted advertisements but the fact remains that the internet users themselves provide access to personal information and behavior when they indiscriminately input personal data on the net or allow cookies to be dropped. It’s a generally forgotten fact that the Internet is a grid of data points where the users widely leave their private data footprints knowingly or unknowingly. This data is constantly collected, analyzed, your persona mapped and advertisement bombardment begins.
With the increasing popularity of IoT (Internet of Things) – connected homes, offices, machines and people – the scale of data collection is likely to be unfathomable. IDC has predicted that 30 Billion IoT devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020. We cannot even begin to imagine the marketers’ expectation and plans once they have access to all this user information, behavior, desire and intent.
No aspect of an internet user’s life is likely to remain sacrosanct and hidden from the penetrating eyes of advertisers. Advertisers live in a perennially mistaken belief that people love attention, being tracked and analyzed. Expecting marketers to do soul searching and limiting invasion of users’ privacy is a tall order. But we can be vigilant individually and be wary of putting our privacy at stake. Here are a few quick fixes that can keep the stalker advertising at bay.
- Install Ad Blockers: Ad blockers prevent web / mobile browsers from loading most of the ads. Approximately 200 million users currently use ad blockers on their browsers and their numbers are growing 41% annually. One, they block unwanted advertisements. Two, in the process, the blockers save a good amount of bandwidth for the users as often the bandwidth used to load ads is much higher than that of accessed content.
- Ditch Ad-free content access: Instead of free services, opt for paid services or monthly ad-free subscriptions like YouTube Red. Voluntarily paid sites like Tipsy are also better. Ad-free access, in general, is an assurance of no or minimal tracking.
- Incognito Window: Browse privately with incognito mode on. This mode opens a new window in your browser and allows you to browse in private without giving access to your history. Above example of swimwear ads could have been avoided using this mode.
- Cautious of app permissions: Apps ask for access to varying information before they allow usage. In our haste to quickly finish the install process, we universally accept terms and approve permissions without knowing that some of them can hit us adversely in future.
- Privacy settings: Keep your privacy settings on most apps and websites from high to medium. Also regularly review the privacy settings of frequently used apps and sites.
- Block third party cookies: Cookies track your username, your visits, and your sign-ins on a website. Blocking them maintains a degree of online anonymity as tracking becomes difficult.
- Secure Connections, Firewalls and Antivirus Services: Install genuine and latest security software’s and always uses secure connections. Stop using that free public Wi-Fi. Keep your security measures updated and passwords strong.
Unless we decide to be an Internet recluse, we cannot perhaps completely escape the prying eyes of online data tracking and advertisers. But to an extent we can control access to our online presence and data by adopting good habits, practicing discerning actions and exercising circumspect behavior.
By- Deepti Mani Saxena, Director Marketing at KeyPoint Technologies.
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