Relevancy vs Privacy

Saul Hansell wrote an interesting story in today’s NY Times where he highlighted some of the targeting technologies that companies like Yahoo!, Google, and our portfolio company TACODA are using to deliver more relvant ads to consumers online.

But he couldn’t stop himself (or maybe his editor couldn’t stop themself) from mentioning the outing of search queries by AOL last week and other privacy horror stories.

I said my piece on this issue last week and today Jeff Jarvis weighs in too.

Yes companies need to have privacy policies. And yes they need to adhere to them. And yes, they shouldn’t be making public people’s search queries. And yes, consumers should be able to easily opt out of these targeting approaches.

But cookies and stored search queries are good things. They make it possible for web services to deliver relevancy in advertising, something no other media has been able to deliver efficiently and reliably.

The reality is that these targeting approaches, whether they be searched based, behavioral, contextual, or whatever is next, are giving us more relevant ads. Ads will be content if this continues. You’ll be planning a trip to mexico this winter and you’ll get ads for places to stay. You’ll be thinking about getting a new car and you’ll be getting images of all of your options when you check the weather in the morning.

And that is a good thing. A very good thing.