This workshop will develop participants’ understanding of cookies and targeted advertising. It will also draw attention to ways in which websites operate in order to allow advertisers to track our activity online and know what preferences we have.
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This will involve a role-playing game helping participants to understand how personal data is used, particularly for targeting advertising at users.
Facilitation tips: This activity was designed to be quite short in order for each participant to play the three proposed roles. Feel free to complement this with the similar workshop ‘
Introduction to Cookies‘ or any other of the several available related to personal data. So you feel comfortable with this subject, we recommend you refer to the workshop plan ‘Personal Data’ (in progress).
To start, divide participants into 3 groups (ideally of 5 people each):
- Internet user group: average people online
- Tracker group: those who collect data (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, and many more)
- Advertiser group: those who come up with advertising and target users
The tracker group receives the members of the internet user group one by one, asks them the following questions and write the answers on a sheet:
- Email address:
- Internet use habits: number of hours per day, on phone, computer, at what hours of the day
- Type of device used: Android, iPad, computer, iPhone:
- Favourite clothing brands :
- Favourite games: RPG, MMO, FPS, platformers, etc.
- Favourite film genres: Sci-fi, drama, romcom, mystery, humour,
- Favourite landscape images: Middle-east, seaside, urban, countryside, photos of snowboarding, parachuting, etc.
- Favourite types of YouTube videos: political, comedy, trailers, IT
These are just some types of information collected about us as we use the internet.
Once the sheets are filled in, the advertiser group takes and analyses them. They will then create ads on A4 paper targeting each user by including some details collected from the questions. For example: if one of the users says they have an iPod or iPad, this means they probably have high purchasing power. You could therefore propose expensive or luxury products. If they said they like watching videos about computer hacking, you could make an ad for tech devices. Or if someone said they like watching sport video on YouTube, it would be clever to include an ad for sport merchandise. Feel free to assist the group here. Don’t spend too long on this phase — they don’t need to create artworks — a slogan and a logo would be enough.
Facilitation tips: If it is the case that the ad creation step is taking too much time, you can do the following. While the advertiser group are working on their task, ask the other two groups to test the Lightbeam tool (see the workshop plan ‘Introduction to Cookies‘).
Once the ads are complete, they should be presented to each user depending on their profile. For example, an ad on tech devices should be only shown to the user who said they were interested in security hacking videos. The target user must rate the ad by saying how enticed they are by the product on a scale of 1-5. The designer who achieves the highest score wins the round.
You should absolutely explain how targeted advertising works online, how data is collected, how to protect it, etc. You could even conclude this workshop with a walking debate in order to learn the opinions of participants concerning personal data and ad tracking.