We're very aware of censorship here at Atomic, but something we haven't really touched on much is not quite covering up information, but someone following the information we generate simply by surfing the web.
Most of you know that websites as we know them today wouldn't exist without the advertising revenue given by those tiny little panels advertising everything from Dell computers to Empire: Total War.
The problem arises when companies want to target their ads directly to the consumers they're trying to reach (and after all, it makes sense to get as many eyeballs where you want them), and most simply use the strategy of selling ads for specific websites, or looking for keywords in an article (just check out Google's ads below this very article for an example).
Being the smart and innovative company that they usually seem to be, Google have come up with a plan to get around this - why not just watch where the people are surfing on the net, and then tailor the ads directly for them?
After all, if you're spending all your time on BigBluePants.com, you wouldn't particularly mind seeing ads for big blue pants everywhere, right? This is what Google had to say:
"we are launching "interest-based" advertising as a beta test on our partner sites and on YouTube. These ads will associate categories of interest - say sports, gardening, cars, pets - with your browser, based on the types of sites you visit and the pages you view. We may then use those interest categories to show you more relevant text and display ads."
Well, that's just the kicker. Even though Google claim that they don't take any personally identifiable information, knowing what kind of things you look at is personally identifiable, and they have to keep a track of where you've been online as well for the service to work.
The crux of the matter is privacy - do we still have it if Google is allowed to collect this information and store it? Where will it end, and will they start collecting data about our purchases too, posting ads about upgrades to the hardware we grabbed?
Those questions have been hotly debated before, and we're sure they will be again - especially seeing as the ad tracking is in a beta testing stage right now, and will roll out the service pending successful results.
You can head to the Ad Preference page to opt-out, but unless you do you're automatically included in the service.
We're not very impressed with this move, even if Google thinks it's going to benefit our browsing:
We believe there is real value to seeing ads about the things that interest you. If, for example, you love adventure travel and therefore visit adventure travel sites, Google could show you more ads for activities like hiking trips to Patagonia or African safaris.
Head over to their latest Google Blog post, and post what you think of this in the comments just below.