Most tracking companies sell those information to advertisers who in return display relevant advertisement to the individual user.
Yahoo's Ad Internet Manager reveals the information that Yahoo has accumulated based on activity on Yahoo sites like Flickr, Delicious or Yahoo Search.
The data consists of factual data, e.g. a user's IP address, and "educated guesses" based on the usage of Yahoo services.
The information on the Ad Interest Manager page are divided into three groups: Interest Categories, Activities, and Computer and Cookies.
Interest Categories are set based on the pages that have been visited in the past, ads that have been clicked on and viewed, and searches that have been conducted.
Activities highlight the use of Yahoo network sites by the user. It displays an activity level for each service used.
Computer and Cookies finally displays the user's IP address and location, operating system, browser, screen resolution, color depth, age range and gender.
The information may differ depending on the web browser used to access the Ad Internet Manager website.
The page offers an opt out option to block interest based ads from being displayed. It the choice is made a cookie is saved to the computer that blocks interest based ads. This still means that ads are shown, but that those ads are not "fine tuned" by using tracking information.
It is interesting to note that some information are guesswork, the age and gender of a user for instance. In our tests, Yahoo thought we were a 26-35 female from Mont-de-Marsan, Aquitaine, or a 56-65 female from New York, depending on the browser used to access the page. It is puzzling that the IP lookup returned locations in two different countries, with both of them being incorrect.
The Ad Interest Manager does not support Google Chrome yet, both the OS and browser information where set to unknown or blank.
Yahoo is not the only company that makes use of interest based ads. Google for instance offers a similar service that they call Ads Preferences, which can, when coupled with the information of the Google Dashboard, reveal lots of information about a particular user.
Opt Out Pages:
You may also be interested in the guide "What is a tracking cookie" that not only explains what a tracking cookie is, but also how to disable them in popular web browsers.
How do you handle interest based ads and tracking cookies? Let us know in the comments.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.