you can be sold in seconds

Last week I was looking at an underwear website (which I’m not going to mention… no free advertising from me). We’ll call it Website A. The next time I logged into my email, there was a banner ad for Website A. The same thing happened when looking at Website B, checking out some winter boots (sticking to needs here). Clicked on the site and boom! My computer suddenly started running their ads. And again today with Websites C and D….

I knew that I was being marketed to before the banner ads suddenly became so blatant but until this week they always seemed a bit random. Kids clothes? I don’t have kids and never check out kids things online. Dating sites? Not even remotely looking for a date. But it has become very clear that I’m being targeted for specific products. And you are too. But I had no clue how it worked until, like they knew what I was thinking, the New York Times ran this article:

You can be sold in seconds. No, wait: make that milliseconds.

The odds are that access to you — or at least the online you — is being bought and sold in less than the blink of an eye. On the Web, powerful algorithms are sizing you up, based on myriad data points: what you Google, the sites you visit, the ads you click. Then, in real time, the chance to show you an ad is auctioned to the highest bidder.

Not that you’d know it. These days in the hyperkinetic world of digital advertising, all of this happens automatically, and imperceptibly, to most consumers.

Ever wonder why that same ad for a car or a couch keeps popping up on your screen? Nearly always, the answer is real-time bidding, an electronic trading system that sells ad space on the Web pages people visit at the very moment they are visiting them. Read the rest of the article.

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