[x+1] is a data-driven marketing tool that profiles consumers as they browse online, which in turn lets companies estimate the lifetime value of those potential customers. It also lets companies target people in most of the places they go online: their email inboxes, their chats, the websites they visit, and more.
How it works:
When you visit a website using [x+1], that site installs a tracker on your computer. That tracker followers where you browse, when you click on websites that are using [x+1], what you buy online, and more. This data is tied to that tracker’s ID number.
As [x+1] gathers this data about you, it begins to make inferences like where you live, what kind of income you have, and what your political leanings are. These inferences allow [X+1]’s customers–companies running advertisements–to serve up ads tailored to those inferences.
The Wall Street Journal reported that CapitalOne was using [x+1]’s data to target different users with very different credit card offers. It’s not price discrimination per se, as consumers are still allowed to apply for any card they prefer, but it certainly can result in offers that are better or worse than a consumer might have received after browsing anonymously.
Additionally, there is concern about how transparent the data stored in [x+1]’s tracker might be: the assessments [x+1] makes are not encrypted, but instead nested as plain text within the [x+1] tracking cookie.
Finally, even though the data [x+1] collects is technically anonymized, the deeper and more thorough a profile is, the more likely it is that a company could identify a particular consumer using just this data. The Wall Street Journal discussed how detailed [x+1]’s data was, writing that “From a single click on a web site, [x+1] correctly identified Carrie Isaac as a young Colorado Springs parent who lives on about $50,000 a year, shops at Wal-Mart and rents kids’ videos.”
How can [x+1] benefit me?
The tradeoff of targeted advertising is this: while [x+1] is more likely to connect you with ads relevant to your interest and special offers you may actually wish to take advantage of, they are also collecting massive amounts of data about you that may someday result in negative consequences you can’t foresee now (like price discrimination, or sharing to the detriment of your privacy). Even incorrect profiling, when shared, might create an awkward situation. It’s up to you to decide how much control you want over your personal data and whether you want companies like [x+1] collecting and analyzing your preferences and browsing behavior.
Read more about some of the other trackers DNTMe is now blocking: