Who are these tracking companies? Meet BlueKai.

Privacy

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bluekai logoBlueKai is one of the largest aggregators of consumer browsing behavior data (actually, they say they’re THE largest behavioral data provider in the US). While they do not perform much of their own predictive analysis, they sell their data to tons of advertising companies, who in turn use this data to generate thorough profiles of consumers and target ads.

How it works:

Image: BlueKai.com

When you visit a website in BlueKai’s network, that site installs a tracker on your computer. That tracker passively watches where you browse the internet and what you do on different websites and collects this anonymized data using that tracker’s unique ID number.

BlueKai’s partner and customer companies take this data and use it to profile you: where they think you live, what kind of job you have and how much you earn, where you spend your money, etc. (If you aren’t currently using a Do Not Track service like DoNotTrackMe, you can actually view what BlueKai has guessed about you here.) When you visit websites whose advertisements recognize your tracker’s ID, you will see ads that are targeted to the profile that has been built for you.

Image: Edward del Rosario, New York Times

Image: Edward del Rosario, New York Times

So what?

BlueKai’s software lets its customers sort consumers into 30,000 highly detailed market segments like “light spenders” and “safety-net seniors,” according to the New York Times. The company estimates your average net worth, your political views, your interests, your spending habits, and more.

Even though the profiling done for each person is technically anonymous, the more information BlueKai gathers, the easier it becomes to theoretically identify a person. Additionally, your data is shared among a ton of partners and customers of BlueKai, and they will all have different policies and strategies in place for retaining, anonymizing, or protecting your data. The profiling that BlueKai enables may bring you special offers and targeted advertisements, but it also opens you up to the possibility of pricing discrimination. When advertisers analyze huge quantities of data, they aren’t just looking for trends – they’re also looking for outcomes. If they determine that people who like Apple products are more willing to spend money on certain devices, what is to stop them from raising the price of those devices for those consumers?

This profiling can also get a little too personal; earlier this year, there was a widely-reported instance of Target alerting a teen girl’s family of her pregnancy with a sudden influx of coupons, all based on her spending habits at Target. There have also been complaints about the intrusiveness of targeted ads. Imagine how weird it might be if after you searched online for diet plans, suddenly every website you visited showed you ads for weight loss products or extra large clothing? This kind of profiling isn’t just personal – it’s uncomfortable.

How might BlueKai benefit me?

Part of the goal of targeted advertising is to serve up more relevant content to users, so letting BlueKai collect data about your browsing habits may let you see ads that are more tailored to your interests and receive more special offers from companies you like…if they’ve profiled you correctly.

Want to dig even deeper? Check out BlueKai’s privacy policy and visit their registry to see or correct the profiling data they already have about you.
Read more about some of the other trackers DNTMe is now blocking:

27 Replies to “Who are these tracking companies? Meet BlueKai.”

  1. Throckmorton Guildersleeve says:

    Why do you have to track me. I would prefer to remain anonymous in my web surfing. I don’t need someone to show me ad’s on things I need to buy. If I want something, I will go out and buy it or research where I can get it at the lowest price. In other words, I’m tired of people watching every move I make, either online or in the real world. I have my blocker set to block everyone except for some that need to see that I’m really me. I will continue to do the same, as well as run things like Spybot and everything else I can to keep you people out of my life.

    Thank you and good night.
    Throckmorton

  2. Throckmorton Guildersleeve says:

    Now go ahead and spam my e-mail. That’s what you do best!!!

  3. jay says:

    surely they are working for the government on their spy missions… i would like their IP to try and shut them down… it is an invasion of privacy over the internet, and probably used for espionage purposes.

  4. Steve C says:

    There are a number of other problems with all this tracking people don’t seem to talk about much:

    1) Current tracking and mining practices are like a gateway drug for marketers. Many do show restraint in some degree for a few reasons, but as more and more data mining habits become commonplace, the infractions on our privacy will become deeper. Eventually the willingness to “anonymize” data will fade as the competitive motivators drive the practices into more invasive spaces.

    2) Desensitization is a real problem in the public. As long as privacy infractions remain subtle and in the comfort zone they will be tolerated. Marketers scraping at the edges of the comfort zone is uncomfortable, but tolerated, because, among other reasons, reaction is stereotyped as anti-social and “quirky.” A big problem is the growing degree of invasive behavior it takes to trigger the “discomfort” mentioned in the article.

    3) The public is generally naive to the power of data mining. Hearing about it is like reading food labels and buying the product even after seeing number of questionable ingredients. It’s easy and too far removed to be clearly understood.

    These things combined today have us on a dangerous path and are a perfect storm for real serious problems tomorrow. Thank you for the Albine products. They are a badly needed tool in protecting ourselves from the data addicts of our current times.

    • SoFDMC says:

      You should copy paste your excellent reply and put everywhere. Very well said its just like the analogy of the frog in the boiling pot / totalitarian tiptoe method.

      Alex Jones also tries to tell us that many seem to recoil from his wild rantings because we have become so domesticated its considered ‘wrong’ to react openly and not ‘socially correct’.

      F*** them all and their domestication. This is war upon us by the control freaks. This shall not pass and we will win this day despite CISPA passing the House!

  5. Steve C says:

    Please reply to this comment rather than my previous one if you want me to see it. I screwed up the email address and can’t edit it in the previous one.

  6. The Pigman says:

    Eyes every bloody where. It’s getting downright Orwellian out there.

  7. jo says:

    Big Brother (Orwellian kind) is a sad indictment of our time. They either track for marketing purposes or because they are plain nosey . If anyone really wants to know what gaming websites I visit or which newspapers I read online or even the random Websites (Stargate, In Plain Sight or other cinematic gems) balanced by Koans, Sun Tzu, Amazon to read book crits and similar miscellany – all they need to do is ask. I am essentially a very sad person with no life. I have 8 facebook friends and never contribute anything on their walls or even my own. I play Dragonfable, Bookworm, and some games on the King website. I never order or purchase online. I have a mobile but never make any calls as I have no friends. There you go – its out there, All they had to do was ask. AND yes, tracking does tick me off,

    • Robert says:

      I was thinking, “Hey, this guy and I are very similar in our browsing habits.” Then you made it seem like these are the habits of sad and lonely people, and that made me sad.lol

  8. AM says:

    The following three trackers are getting through your system. Please block them. Great work with the rest.

    Perfect Market

    media.net

    Jivox

  9. were all mad here says:

    ok I have a ton on dnt freeware on my pc but how do i know if they are not essentially tracking me instead now. its like trading heroin for crack. one is just as bad as the other. i see a lot of people saying “block these sites” but can someone please take a second to tell me how. I am using windows 7 and chrome is my browser if that makes a diference

    • Mark says:

      Hey Dude, take the time like you should, instead of being a large part of today’s generation where they expect the internet to do all their work for them and all you have to do is turn it on and your life takes care of it’s self. All new computers come with DNT installed as part of Internet Explorer, with that being said you need to read about browser security because at the top of the list of information seller’s is and always has been…. “Google”. The only browser left out there that will encrypt your data before it’s sent is, Mozilla/Firefox so lose the Chrome and install Firefox instead where DNT comes installed with the browser, then download “Mask Me” so you can screen your emails like I have here. Also take the time to learn about the features of this browser it is way better then Chrome. I write tech support for microsoft and I would bet when you call and I know you have,lol and when they ask what type of computer you have, you tell them a white one…just yankin ya good luck.

  10. Bryan says:

    This no longer possible now that the government is shut down.

  11. why is tracking not illegal, if i hack in to someones account i will be arrested, same rules should apply

  12. Guy Fawkes says:

    Get lost bluekai and go track yourself clowns

  13. Matt says:

    You guys make it seem like bluekai and all these other companies are so evil. If you do not want to be tracked, they all have an opt-out for you. You don’t have to do anything else but click the opt-out link. And that “it installs a tracker” crap. It drops a cookie. nothing gets installed on your computer

  14. Martin says:

    Why you always say “When you visit any website it INSTALLS a tracker?”. It’s wrong. A website cannot install anything on your maschine as long as you do not download anything and start it. And you always have to confirm such actions at least one time.

    It’s better to say it stores data in any kind of storage the browser and other plugins allow to identificate you on other pages, that’s the way how such tracking websites work.

    • Zach Rachins says:

      Hi Martin,

      These websites use technologies that temporarily (sometimes until you disable them) “install” trackers on your browser. The way you’re saying it is perfectly fine too; it’s just preference in the terminology we’re using.

      Thanks,
      Zach

  15. riwi says:

    go track yourself

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