In a peculiar and inevitably controversial announcement, Lycos has revealed that it struck a deal with a company called AlmondNet to distribute Lycos advertiser banners ads through AlmondNet so-called Post-Search site network targeted to user search behavior. AlmondNet has reached agreement with “undisclosed ISPs and AdWare companies” to collect search-cookie information that tracks search behavior without disclosing personal information. Supposedly, this will result in the display of a banner to a user (or a computer, at any rate) who has previously searched on a topic relevant to the ad.
Behavioral targeting is the promised land of contextual searching, and, really, the holy grail of all advertising. Privacy issues come to the forefront whenever tracking cookies are involved. In this case, Lycos asdvertisers will benefit from AlmondNet’s data collection. What is not clear is where the cookies are coming from—who asre the undisclosed ISPs and AdWare companies? That vagueness, combined with AlmondNet’s amateurish Web site, creates a poor first impression of this deal. John Battelle thinks consumer need administrative control over their tracking information. I like that idea, but don’t insist on it. But I do think more transparency is called for here.