Google has confirmed to the US government that it is using its double-click ad serving cookie to watch the way we surf – but insisted that it is not using the deep packet inspection that is scaring internet users everywhere.
In a letter to the bipartisan House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating the way in which web usage is monitored, Google shocked nobody by confirming that its Double Click cookies – used for adverts – did provide information that could be fed back to advertisers.
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This includes what sites the person subsequently visited, and which adverts were seen.
However Google insists that is not 'yet' focusing on behavioural advertising, serving ads appropriate to the sites that the person has visited (and essentially building up a profile of your browsing habits).
Don't be evil?
The sheer dominance of Google in both search and advertising (especially with its purchase of Double Click) means that it could easily create accurate profiles on people based on their browsing.
In monetary terms, this could be used to only serve adverts for the types of things that we are interested in and are therefore more likely to pay attention to – but the repercussions of being tracked online worry many.
The UK public have already been alerted to these concerns, with the recent Phorm incident sparking outrage from people who found out that their viewing habits were being tracked for advertising purposes.