It seems like no matter which websites you are trafficking, it’s next to impossible to navigate your day without encountering those ubiquitous consent banners asking whether you’d like to allow or decline advertising tracking. Most of us have been conditioned to reflexively click “decline”, more than likely as a response to some innate fear we feel at the thought of corporations collecting data on us. Who in their right mind would want to be tracked more, especially when any remaining vestiges of privacy are dwindling everyday? While those fears are not completely unfounded, there is also a case to be made for occasionally choosing to accept tracking. For just a moment, let’s suspend that wariness and delve a little deeper into why as a user browsing the internet you could benefit from online tracking and explore some of the ways you can make it work to your advantage.
What Data Advertisers Typically Collect When You Click “Accept”
Before we can dive into the benefits of participating in ad tracking, it might be helpful to understand what information they are tracking to assuage some of the fears about data collection and the unknowns it represents. It is fair to say that most people don’t know what information is gathered on them when they click that “accept” button.
When you choose to accept tracking, advertisers typically collect data such as your browsing history, the websites you visit, your search queries, and, in some cases, demographic information like age and location. This data is used to create a profile of your online behavior and interests, allowing advertisers to show you more relevant ads. Importantly, advertisers do not collect sensitive personal information like Social Security numbers or credit card details through tracking. Instead, they focus on patterns of behavior to improve ad targeting.
Now that you know a little more about what data points are being collected, let’s look into what some of the potential benefits are.
Personalized Content and Recommendations
One of the most significant advantages of allowing advertising tracking would be that it helps you to receive personalized content and recommendations. When you consent to tracking, websites and advertisers can gather data on your browsing habits, such as what pages you visit, your interests, and preferences. Have you ever seen a suggested ad or article and thought to yourself, “Who would ever want to look at that?” That is because that particular advertiser has no idea what you like and is taking a stab in the dark. Information on your browsing habits is used to tailor the content and advertisements you see, making your online experience more relevant and engaging.
Ever visited an e-commerce website and been greeted with product recommendations that align with your past purchases and browsing history? That is because the advertiser knows which audience you fall into. This level of personalization can save you time and effort in finding products or services that genuinely interest you. It can also introduce you to new and exciting offerings that you might have otherwise missed.
Enhanced User Experience
Advertising tracking can also significantly improve your overall experience online as a user. When websites can track your behavior and preferences, they can optimize their layouts and content to suit your needs. This means that you are more likely to see content that aligns with your interests, and the website may even load faster because it doesn’t have to load unnecessary data.
One way you might be familiar with this practice is when news websites prioritize articles on topics you’ve shown an interest in. This helps to reduce the time you spend searching for information you often search for. Similarly, streaming platforms can suggest movies or shows that match your viewing history, enhancing your enjoyment and engagement.
Supporting Free Online Services
One thing most people may not consider is that many of the websites and services we use daily are funded through advertising revenue. By allowing advertising tracking, you are indirectly supporting these platforms and enabling them to offer their content or services for free. If enough users choose to decline tracking, it may lead to reduced advertising revenue for these websites, potentially resulting in the introduction of paywalls or subscription fees.
Consider popular social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. They rely heavily on advertising revenue to sustain their operations and offer their services without charging users. When you consent to tracking, you help these platforms continue to operate in a free or low-cost manner, making sure that millions of users can stay connected and informed without the burden of subscription fees.
Discover Relevant Deals and Discounts
Ad tracking can be a boon for deal-hunters and bargain-seekers. When advertisers have access to your browsing habits and interests, they can present you with targeted promotions, discounts, and coupons that align with your preferences. This can lead to significant savings on the products and services you want.
Imagine receiving exclusive offers on your favorite clothing brands or discounts on the latest gadgets simply because advertisers know what you’re looking for. By consenting to tracking, you open the door to these money-saving opportunities that may otherwise remain hidden.
Supporting Small Businesses
Large corporations aren’t the only ones that benefit from ad tracking; it can also be a way for small businesses to compete in the online marketplace—leveling the playing field so to speak. Small businesses often have a smaller marketing budget, and have to be more strategic about how they use it. Targeted advertising can help them reach the right audience without wasting resources on broad campaigns.
By allowing tracking, you are helping small businesses thrive. Allowing them to see who their main consumers are ensures that users who are genuinely interested in their products or services see their advertisements. This support can contribute to the growth and sustainability of local and independent businesses, as well as foster diversity and competition in the online marketplace.
While it may seem counterintuitive, accepting advertising tracking can bolster your online security. Many websites use tracking to detect and prevent fraudulent activities such as account hijacking, unauthorized access, and suspicious transactions. Tracking mechanisms offer an additional layer of protection against cyber threats by monitoring user behavior and identifying anomalies.
What that means is that when you allow websites to track your activity, they can learn what your typical interactions look like and are more likely to detect and respond promptly to any suspicious actions on your account. In this instance, consenting to having your data collected can help prevent data breaches and safeguard your personal information.
Control Over Your Data
Contrary to popular belief, consenting to ad tracking doesn’t mean surrendering all control over your data. Many websites and services offer options that allow you to manage and limit the extent of tracking through various settings and configurations, often even giving you the choice to go back and delete your data if you decide to change your mind. This affords you the ability to still enjoy the benefits of personalization and relevant content at a lower level of risk while maintaining a degree of control over your privacy.
While the instinct to decline ad tracking when confronted with a consent banner is understandable, there are definitely potential benefits of embracing it that may give you pause. The reasons listed above are just a few of the advantages that can arise from choosing to accept tracking, and while there are almost certainly more, that is not to say that there are no downsides. Looking into both the pros and the cons is always the responsible thing to do when considering what is right for your information as the consumer. Oftentimes the correct response is situational—Who do you want to see ads and deals from again? Is there something you shop for that you would rather remain anonymous about?
If you manage your tracking preferences properly instead of choosing a blanket “Decline All” approach, you can maintain control over your data while still enjoying the benefits of a more personalized and user-friendly online experience. So, next time you see a consent banner, maybe pause to reconsider your knee-jerk inclination to decline and recognize that, in some cases, embracing ad tracking can be a win-win for both you as the user and the online ecosystem.