High frequency: You’re the asset being traded …

Punch line: In milliseconds, advertisements are being served based on your browsing habits.

Behind the every one of these ad placement opportunities is a sophisticated tracking system that allows access to the highest bidder.

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Excerpted from New York Times’ “Your Online Attention, Bought in an Instant”

ad-impression - image from The Gaurdian

The odds are that access to you — or at least the online you — is being bought and sold in less than the blink of an eye.

How it works …

On the Web, powerful algorithms are sizing you up, based on myriad data points … Then, in real time, the chance to show you an ad is auctioned to the highest bidder.

The bidders are marketers seeking to identify their best prospects and pitch them before they move to the next Web page.

It is a form of high-frequency trading. But in this case, the prize is the attention of ordinary people.

Yet for most of us, real-time bidding is invisible. That worries some federal regulators and consumer advocates, who say that such electronic trading systems could unfairly stratify consumers, covertly offering better pricing to certain people while relegating others to inferior treatment.

Although real-time bidding accounts for a small portion of online ad sales, it is growing fast. This year in the United States, advertisers are expected to spend about $2 billion on display ads bought through electronic auction-based exchanges and … by 2017, the report estimated, that market is likely to reach $8.3 billion.

Edit by JDC
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