Your ability to block personalized ads is dependent on which web-browser you use.
Chrome has a solution that you can implement right now, and it comes in the form of a browser extension. The extension works by automatically opting you out of any company that offers an opt out program, which Google says is over 50 companies including the top 15 largest ad networks. It won’t block ads (Google is not about to start helping you to block their ads), but the overly-personalized ads will now be replaced by generic, possibly repetitive ads. Here’s the link to the Chrome extension.
Firefox’s solution is still a “proposed” feature, meaning it will likely not be available until the next major browser release. What they are planning is a Do Not Track setting you can activate in the browser. When you activate it, it will send out an HTTP header to advertisers (well, their servers actually) that will tell them not to deliver personalized ads to you, and to only track your activity anonymously. Advertisers will have to choose whether to respect Firefox’s header (respectible ones likely will), and we will have to see how long it takes Firefox to implement this, but it is a promising idea.
Internet Explorer 9
The upcoming release of Internet Explorer 9 promises yet another solution to ad tracking. IE 9 will feature a “Tracking Protective List”, in which you either blacklist or whitelist ad tracking from advertisers by domain. We will have to see how this is implemented for the end user, and how effective this method of stopping personalized ads is in practice.
These are three different browsers with three different methods of preventing personalized ads. The Chrome extension is the only one that you can implement right this moment, but the Firefox and Internet Explorer 9 solutions should be coming soon. It is also likely that other browsers such as Safari and Opera will adopt or implement their own methods to prevent ad tracking. Whatever method you choose to use, it is definitely a good thing that we now have more options to protect our privacy and keep web browsing anonymous.