If you were driving down the road and saw all the billboards ahead of you flipping to advertise you products and services that you had recently been looking at online, writing e-mails about, or shopping for, you would probably be a bit creeped out. Whether you are aware of it or not, there isn’t much difference between that analogy and how targeted advertising works online.
You can see what information various online advertisers have collected about you and the profile they’re building. Sometimes it will be accurate and allow online ads to be more helpful and inform you about the products you are looking for. Other times, the online advertisers’ profile of you could be horribly skewed, stuck on something that was a one-time interest or not even you.
For example, my profiles tend to identify me as a 26-35 year old male with various interests like:
Arts & Entertainment – Comics & Animation – Comics
Computers & Electronics – Computer Hardware – Computer Peripherals – Printers, Copiers & Fax – Printers
Internet & Telecom – Web Services
Shopping – Apparel – Athletic Apparel
You can see your profile for big advertisers on their targeted ad pages: