Privacy Issues on Online Advertising – Qatar

Introduction

“Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.” –Stephen B. Leacock

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It initially sounded like a winning situation – absolute free money – for all internet access providers. By simply tracking their users personal surfing habits, they can effectively deliver ads to their target audience interests and claim a portion of the budding online advertising market heavily dominated by internet search companies, but these efforts to determine consumer interests through the internet in on a decline. Before we address the issues in Qatar, let’s take a more global perspective.

A privacy storm issued through Nebula Inc. the Silicon Valley based firm that can assist web tracking. And its obvious partners the ISP providers failed to make a valid case that they should be a part of the advertising business, instead of being a channel that passes internet traffic to and fro.

Gradually all cable and telephone companies that had tried NebuAd’s advertisement serving system have put aside expansion plans. In media interviews, company executives have blamed the unstable climate as congress has tightened federal laws. Firms like Google and Yahoo usually track users online could experience their online advertising growth slow down because of certain federal, state and consumer inhibitions with these practices is predicted by a financial research group. (Potter, 367, 2005)

Research

The Standford Group of Industries pointed to state legislation in New York and Connecticut to safeguard consumer’s online privacy along with the Trade commission for self regulation as well as complaints which will lead to worldwide increased regulation on online advertising. This research group also found that TNS Global found ot42 percent of web users would decline the online tracking if given the choice. “We believe that the growing government involvement is going to provide consumers the option to opt out of online tracking, which will substantially reduce the web users that can be targeted through advertising.” The group said in statement.

Some state that online advertising may be considered harmful to consumers. Also that the merger off Google and DoubleCLick would also have adverse affects, to such an extent that it will encourage more targeted advertising. But these critics can rarely provide concrete examples of such harms done. The typical aim of online advertising is ad impression is to limit the noumber of times an ad is exposed to a particular consumer. This means that after you have viewed a blue car about six or seven times the server will switch the image to a red one or another advertisement. This basically means that a viewer will see different ads opposing to a single advert.

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People believe that is good for both consumers and advertisers. People tend to get sick of watching same ads over and over again, till it turns repulsive. With development of technology there are ore effective ways of advertising through the internet which will allow effective matching between buyers and sellers. Again, a consumer would prefer to see relevant ads than being bombarded with tons of irrelevant advertisements. When on a travel site you really don’t want to see adverts of children toys, just like televisions that show irrelevant ads. (Nickels et al, n.p., 2002)

Many if not all hate unsolicited marketing through telephone. So came into existence a regulation “do not call” answer. It is difficult to determine which particular online advertising practices and therefore makes it difficult to come up with a remedy. Websites which provide internet users with free content like downloading, email and social networking try to generate revenue through advertisements to pay journalist and web support costs.

These websites should have a vote in whether they should be compelled to provide free content without the liberty of matching consumers to content of some basic criteria. It is an established fact that free sites are more respectable to privacy than paid sites. This is obvious as paid sites as required to acquire their users entity and real credit card numbers, while free website allow anonymous browsing. Google has always in the past and in the future involve it self in a better privacy policy debate regarding the internet privacy issue. Issues pertaining privacy and security of data are of great importance to Google, as maintaining user trust is essential for over success of the business.

Google firstly has a strong incentive to practice a stricter and stronger privacy and secure policies in aim of safeguarding user data to retain market share. It is for this reason that till date Google has refused to display adverts from third party advertisements. The new proposed transaction will in no way change Google’s commitment to its privacy maintenance, and along with this Google is now in the process of developing a totally revamped privacy policy to address the added data gathering by third party advertisements.

However with this step by Google many of its competitors have now vowed to develop services that will provide consumers with better privacy of data, simply addressing the robustness of recent debate on the privacy issue. It can be deduced that such completion will be greatly decline if Google takes over DoubleClick, while in reality we can see such competition intensify. Privacy is a pressing issue in the world of online advertisements. But it may not be an issue of a competition law to review. (Nickels et al, n.p., 2002)

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Marketers are in a constant flux to develop new strategies and expand their markets and achieve advantages presented by economies of scale through globalization. The aim of every supplier all around the world is to effectively tap their target audience, to effective inform them of the commodity being offered and make a sale, many methods have been employed and revolutionized and of this the newest being digital advertising. This method provides the opportunity to easily manipulate and work with the content in hand. An example of this may be that data sent to mobiles and internet can be detected and traced easily.

Online advertising has changed the realm of advertising in the past few decades by adding a lot more features t the conventional brick and mortar advertising could only imagine. Chief Executive Officer of the interactive advertising bureau (IAB) Mr. Rothenberg that the field of interactive marketing has been steadily growing and developed vitality and more areas of expansion are expected wince consumers in this age are spending double the time online compared to the past. (Potter, 367, 2005)

Internet has recently gained a lot of popularity in third world countries. In countries like Qatar when research was carried out it was found that internet usage had grown by over sixteen percent. The majority of which contained digital subscriber’s line, internet accounts have risen from fifty thousand to about eighty thousand. With the growth of internet based businesses like Armex international limited.

A courier provider who opens clients’ mailboxes in UK and USA for their online shipping accounts. Today internet advertisements are able to track down users with the use of cookies and other complicated algorithms to provide the accurate information to the end user. In this way companies can efficiently spend their marketing budgets; by targeting only those potential users. This is made realizable by using the various media options i.e. cost per mile or cost per click of mouse and cost per acquisition.

As an example may be a company as per wish may buy advertising space but only to be shown on an oil and gas website and only when a certain individual us accessing the particular pages to maximize revenue to achieve these certain results, behavioral approaches targeting the advertisements for internets are used. Companies like Phorm or NebuAd are said to have developed new software’s that are pre installed on networks of internet service providers which usually intercept web pages requests generated by the users and they surf the internet. These pages in question are delivered as per request but are scanned for certain key words to build a general profile of the user’s interest.

These profiles are then used in targeting consumers more effectively. The future still presents to be a little is expected to get more technologically sophisticated as seen in movies like the minority report where the actor Tom Cruise passes by a billboard and the billboard recognizes him and says “Hello Tom.” (Potter, 367, 2005)

This research will use Google, which is one of the biggest search engines companies in today’s modern internet age and provide effectively behavioral advertising which is directed towards their target audience. The reason Google is the best is because they provide their users with the most relevant information. It is such a powerful tool that will crawls on every website on the internet every few weeks, which basically means that surfing every server on the globe and scanning every page and every link and these results are catalogued to provide users with accurate info.

According to many reliable sources behavioral marketing is a subtle technique by online publishers and marketers to provide viability to their advertising campaigns. The basic idea is to observe a subscribers behavior anonymously and provide them with the relevant advertisements based on their behavioral patterns. Theoretically this means that advertisers will be able to effectively serve their target audience. In simpler terms this means that you are followed around when you are surfing using internet cookies and displayed ads pertaining to your actions, so basically this means you will be presented with airline ads if you are surfing vacation destination websites.

This is applicable when contextual marketing programs like Google’s Adwords are easily available in the market. Today behavioral marketing is only offered by a handful of companies. The two main giants that offer this are Tacoda and Revenue Science. It is also known that Yahoo and Microsoft are in the process of trying the beta versions of such technology. All these companies will provide a domain to advertise on.

The only problem they face is that in order for behavioral advertising to be effective one would have to advertise on a much larger site with numerous amount of content, or you must be able to advertise across multiple sites where internet users can be tracked down easily. This obviously ignores the niche sites that many users prefer over large portal sites which may contain relevant information and eliminates the effect of long tail marketing. (Conner, 455, 1999)

Along with the requirement if advertising on larger sites, the cost implications are then transferred onto the end users. On a cost per thousand basis as mentioned earlier, one may advertise o many niche sites from two to ten dollar impressions. As the traffic is lower on niche sites, a company may obtain couple of thousand impressions a month; keeping the overall monthly budget less than about fifty. In the case of larger websites, a company maybe paying about fifty dollars on a site than can obtain maximum of a hundred thousand in hits.

Inc comparisons with the pay-per-click the company would consider the cost of a keyword, or a properly devised advertisement and a great landing page could result in sales for as low as ten cents. And lastly you’re just paying for the clicks and not the people that actually visit the site. Coming back to the pressing issue at hand, behavioral targeting no matter what benefits it provides is invisible to the end user. (Nickels et al, n.p., 2002)

Which has definitely raised many eyebrows on the issue of internet privacy? May users are against the idea of their information being stored or tracked for the delivery of future advertisements or users would at least like to know if a particular site is engaging in such an activity. With the prevalent privacy scare on the internet, end users are greatly concerned about what kind of information is collected and in what way Is it utilized, specially with online transaction containing credit card nos. many privacy groups have made this a pressing issue, engaging in any sort of behavioral targeting may cause adverse associations for one’s business.

Like any other marketing campaign you would obviously minutely monitor our behavioral marketing campaign to understand and analyze the user’s conversion rate. While many markets have had success in behavioral marketing may have also obtained poor leads that don’t always end up with a sale. In many cases behavioral targeting may tend to be ineffective on computers that are used by multiple users, or with single users that have many roles. We will consider a few examples to clarify this.

  • Tom likes fishing had often searches for websites with fishing gear. These searches go into the database of behavioral targeting. But when his teenage son uses the internet he surfs for snowboarding equipment. If the website used behavioral targeting then the teenager will be served with fishing gear advertisements. On the other hand if the website has used contextual advertising or direct advertisements then the teenager may have seen snowboarding or video games adverts.
  • Ralph works from his home as a virtual assistant. He has many clients and provides a number of tasks for them. For another he may book a travel plan and for another she may research aftermarket of car accessories. And maybe for someone else he may track certain stocks. Although he may have accessed all these websites but may have no actual interest in any of these fields.

When targeting at larger sites the company must determine how many sales can be handled. When NGH Consulting wouldn’t not choose to advertise on large sites because they could not actually handle the influx of customers without revamping their business model. When businesses serve the local markets, service based businesses and businesses that sell handmade goods are all likely to be very poor candidates of large scale advertising. To actually place an ad on MSN.com might be able to yield a great return on investment, but will your company be able to handle the inflow of say over thousand new clients? If this will happen then negative reviews may destroy a company in the long run than any monetary gains made by a rush of sales. (Nickels et al, n.p., 2002)

References

Conner-sax, K. Conner, K. & Krol, E. (1999), The Whole Internet, O’Reilly.

Potter, J. (2005), Media literacy, 6th ed, Sage.

William G. Nickels, W. J. Mchugh, J. M. & Mchugh, S. M. (2002), Understanding Business, 2nd ed, McGraw-Hill.

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