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The new advertising policy states:

Retargeting pixels are allowed for a limited number of vetted and pre-approved Programmatic partners.

On the settings page of my profile it states:

Stack Overflow never sells or shares your activity data with third parties.
We use your on-site activity to show you more relevant content.

A screenshot of the settings page included to show that the information is misleading. The image shows the statement "Stack Overflow never sells or shares your activity data with third parties." in bold under the heading "Activity Data" next to a button labelled "Download activity data". There is also a switch below it with the text "Use my on-site activity to show more relevant content (recommended) If you opt-out, existing recommendations will be discarded within 24 hours."

A comment on my answer to Update to our Advertising Guidelines says:

Advertisers can determine which pages their ad is being served on.

And the post explains that retargeting pixels are a feature that enables

certain vetted advertisers can use data they have gathered to personalize the ads shown on Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange sites

I understand that to mean that Stack Exchange is going to share my activity with a third party. I am not convinced that offloading the association of that activity to other identifying data absolves the company of responsibility for that sharing. I also don't think "activity data" is distinguished enough from "activity" to make it clear that the statement on my profile settings page only refers to activity data the company collects and not activity data it allows third parties to collect through their ads.

I think the statement on the profile is misleading and might cause some people to believe that their activity on the network is more anonymous than it is and it should be removed or clarified. That little checkbox to enable personalization doesn't control all collection of my activity data. If I download my activity data, it won't include the activity data shared with the secret list of vetted advertisers.

At a minimum, there should be "cookie and similar technologies" controls in the same section to make it clear those are two different things. There is already a similar feature request: Add a link to the site cookie settings from the User Settings page

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    I was prompted to post this after a conversation this morning with my husband in our kitchen about throwing out his ripped up jeans caused him to get advertisements for jeans literally half an hour later. Advertisers are getting creepy.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 6 at 15:47
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    I assume the "conversation" went ... but these jeans are still perfectly fine!
    – rene
    Feb 6 at 15:59
  • @rene Lol no, the seam in the seat was getting worn which makes them dangerous as work pants. Our discussion was throw them away or cut them up for quilting scraps. And a mention of where he might buy cheap replacements.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 6 at 16:02
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    At least somewhat related: Will the tracking pixels replace the existing advertiser tracking?
    – VLAZ
    Feb 6 at 16:07
  • 5
    Switch off Alexa ... and your iPhone ....
    – rene
    Feb 6 at 16:07
  • @rene There's no Amazon spy devices in the house. We need little foam mufflers for the phone mics. We use them too much to lock them away or turn them off. Not that turning them off has much effect. The lack of a removable battery has seen to that.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 6 at 16:12
  • @ColleenV from personal experience, no need for any spy device. Or, your phones are the spy device. ;) Feb 6 at 16:16
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    @VLAZ I upvoted that discussion when it was posted. I feel that it's unlikely we'll be able to keep the company from taking creepy ad money so they should at least stop pretending they aren't willing to throw us under the bus for money.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 6 at 16:19
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    @ShadowWizardLoveZelda It's absolutely my husband's phone. I've been whispering to my phone how much I want baby goats and piglets and still no cute animals in my ads.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 6 at 16:20
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    @ColleenV let me guess, some Google phone, aka any phone with android? I'm 1000% sure there's something deep in android that sends Google keywords being written/said and they sell this to advertisers. And no, I don't think Apple is any better so no point switching to iOS. ;) Feb 6 at 16:22
  • Nah it's an iPhone, but he uses more apps than I do. I do everything through web pages and lock my apps permissions down pretty hard. I'm finally completely off Google except for the occasional YT video. They were totally scraping any information that went through their servers. Email, cloud docs, all of it.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 6 at 16:24
  • From @Sasha's comment on my answer, it sounds like SE has washed their hands of any data sharing/misuse concerns due to the fact that the user data is gathered on the advertisers own websites and they are then using that data to identify and ad-tartget users on the SO/SE network. But as KevinB said in his comment: "Is the fact that we're here not info you're sharing with them by allowing serving said retargeted ad".
    – Dhaust
    Feb 7 at 0:37
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    For me, allowing 3rd parties to use user data (regardless of where it was gathered) to target ads on SO/SE is a breach of the underlying promise to not share my activity (i.e. my presence) on the site. While arguably not a technical breach, it's a breach of the spirit of the promise. I don't want anyone (especially 3rd party advertisers) to be able to identify me across different sites/networks unless I explicitly give them that permission. Allowing retargeting pixels removes my ability to control that permission.
    – Dhaust
    Feb 7 at 0:49
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    Oh, and after I posted the comment about the seat of the jeans being worn, youtube recommended no less than three videos specifically on how to fix holes in the crotch of jeans a day later. All the cookie blocking, asking sites not to track, etc. has absolutely no effect. I shouldn’t have to practice secret agent levels of opsec to browse the internet. I don’t mind advertising. I do mind being stalked and spied on.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 9 at 12:59
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