Addressable Ads

On the Web, businesses place small text files on your computer, called cookies, that assist in tracking your Web browsing activities. The information gathered with cookies is used to personalize your browsing experience. This includes displaying advertisements that are targeted at your interests.

Now cable TV and satellite providers want to try a similar technique called Addressable Ads. By monitoring the shows you watch on TV, the providers are able to learn a lot about your interests and tastes. Using this information they will soon begin sending commercials to your television specifically selected for you. So, for instance, at 9:30PM, in the middle of a broadcast hockey game, rather than showing all viewers the same commercial targeted at males aged 18 to 35, each viewer would see a commercial targeted at his or her unique interests. In an Addressable Ads pilot in Baltimore, Comcast discovered that viewers were 32 percent less likely to turn away from Addressable Ads.

While Addressable Ads provide more interesting commercials for viewers,they also cause concern for those who care about privacy. The customer viewing information gathered by cable and satellite providers is typically shared with data aggregation companies, which in turn can pass it on to advertisers. Unlike Web cookies, Addressable Ads are able to associate customer names, addresses, and other information with the data collected. This becomes even more worrisome as television, Internet and phone continue to converge. Cellular providers have the ability of placing ads on phones based on the current location of the device. When all of these technologies are combined, marketers will know about your every habit. They will be able to combine knowledge of your interests, your location, your activity, the time of day, and other factors to provide you with the perfect ad. Current privacy legislation is ill equipped to protect us from such an implementation of technology.