Google AdSense: When does advertising go too far?

An article posted at MediaPost.com last Friday discusses a new advertising venture from Google which targets ads to users based on those users’ credit scores. This new deal involves a parnership with Compete.com, a company that tracks online activity and personal data of approximately 2 million users who consented to having their information shared with third party sources. Using data that has been provided to Compete, Google will offer advertisers the option to target their products to users in specific credit score ranges. This will mean companies can target luxury goods and services to those with high credit scores, who will be more likely to buy their products.

My question is this: when these users consented to have their data sent to a third party when they signed up for whatever it was they signed up for, how many of them thought it meant they would just get added to some advertiser’s mailing list and how many of them actually knew that they would be sharing their financial data with Google and anyone else who wanted to pay for it? How many of them signed up on sites with the checkbox to allow this data to be used in an out of the way place so that it was checked by default and they didn’t see it to change it?

It is well within Google’s rights to keep stats and usage data on all of its websites. I don’t personally have a problem with some computer algorithm searching through my gmail in order to target ads to the contents of those e-mails. I start to take issue, however, when I can unknowingly authorize Google to be able to track me across the web and look at my personal financial history. Sure it is a computer that is looking at everything as I do it, but what’s to stop a Google employee from pulling up the history from that computer? When does it stop being a help to me as a consumer and a danger to me as a free citizen?

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