Have you ever wondered what information advertisers are collecting about you? More often than not the individual advertising that you are seeing when you visit your favorite website is based on an advertising profile that has been built up over time based on your individual online behaviors.
CNET is reporting that Jeff Weiner, Executive Vice President of Yahoo’s Network Division, can already imagine a day in the not too distant future where when you see an advertisement on Yahoo, there would be an icon that would allow you to view your ad profile so you can understand why that particular advertisement was delivered to you.
The icon would lead you to a page containing all of the information Yahoo was using to build your ad profile and provide you with the opportunity to correct any misinterpretations on your ad profile or potentially even turn off the profiling all together.
Now Jeff was not making any promises on if or when this would happen at Yahoo. He is sure however that it will happen and he hopes that Yahoo will be the leader when it comes to making profile information readily available to everyone being profiled.
To that end, Yahoo is already working on projects that could make offering this functionality much easier. Currently Yahoo is working on a project to create a universal log-on for users who use the myriad of different services Yahoo has to offer. Currently Yahoo has over 100 different log-on experiences with profiles attached to each. By unifying this experience and creating a single user profile, it would then become much easier to organize, coordinate and display the data that Yahoo has about you.
The last and maybe most important thing that was said, was when Jeff was asked who owned the data. He responded that you own your own data. This is probably the key point that is driving this idea, more so than the willingness or desire for businesses like Yahoo to want to become transparent.
Because many believe you own your own data and have a right to be able to see this information, building a system to allow you to easily access the data should preempt many potential future pitfalls regarding how data is used and managed for Yahoo or any other service performing individual ad profiling.
To those really interested in this topic beyond Yahoo, John Battelle, wrote a short but extremely thought provoking article on the topic of data profiles and who owns them. In John’s article he is referencing Google’s services, but I think the conversation almost 18 months later is still relevant.