Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is starting to test a behavioral targeting system on its partner sites and YouTube. In a Google Blog post that doesn't even say the words "behavioral" or "targeting," the search giant tries to come up with a more friendly term: "interest-based advertising." Google tries to say that this is nothing more than an expansion of the kind of relevancy AdSense's keywords offer, implying that if you don't mind ads for digital cameras popping up when you search for anything related to photography, you won't mind if Google tracks sports or gardening websites you visit and then shows you ads related to these "interests."
Google does try to go a bit further on the opt-in feature that many regulators and lawmakers have been demanding when it comes to behavioral targeting. Users will be able to choose "favorite categories" for ads they might be willing to be targeted for or tell Google what kinds of ads they don't want to see. Hoping to avoid the regulatory pitfalls swirling around targeting, Google offers three points about "transparency, choice and control" for its program. For one thing, Google says it already clearly labels ads served by AdSense and later this year, it will expand the range of ad formats and publishers that display labels that provide more details about Google's targeting processes. Through its Ad Preferences Manager tool and the Advertising Cookie Opt-Out Plug-in, Google feels that it's providing enough cover for any public or governmental outcry. Given the current regulatory climate, it's fairly certain that no matter how explicit Google believes its controls are, officials at the state and federal level are sure to level their own kind of regulatory targeting at this new system.
By David Kaplan