I heard a rumor that I hope isn’t true. Specifically, I heard that opting out of behavioral profiling may not stop advertising companies from tracking you as you travel across the Web. Rather, according to the rumor, in many cases you merely opt out of seeing the tailored ads your web history might otherwise trigger.
The ability to opt out of behavioral profiling essentially underpins the argument for self-regulation by the industry. The idea is that (1) people like tailored ads and (2) those that worry about the practice, for instance, from a privacy perspective, can opt out of it. Setting aside the apparent frailty of cookie-based opt out (when you delete your cookies, you delete your opt out as well) and the availability of other means to track users (like flash cookies), this seems pretty straightforward and convincing.
But what does “opting out” mean, exactly? A close look at the Network Advertising Initiative website, which offers an opt out tool on behalf of most major online advertisers, turns up no guarantee that opting out will stop a company from logging where a user has traveled. Read more about Does NAI’s Opt Out Tool Stop Consumer Tracking?