Is advertising the problem?

There is a growing concern about online advertising.

Privacy advocates are campaigning against the tracking used by advertisers, and publishers, advertisers and online advertisement agencies are increasingly at war with ad-blockers.

In an article last year on the independent newsroom ProPublica, Julia Angwin reported that Google quietly dropped their ban on personally identifiable web tracking. Starting from that moment, Google has been correlating your personal information and your online habits with the ads that are displayed, on all Google channels (Gmail, YouTube, Google search, etc).

It’s well known business model to sell ads for advertisers, and when you see ads more closely aligned to your interests, you are more likely to click on them. This keeps the advertisers happy, as well as publishers who display ads for a small commission on each click. Of course, the advertising agency is happy, because their customers (the advertisers) are happy.

But are ads actually the problem?

Ads are not the problem for online advertisement

By themselves, advertisements are not a problem. They have been around since the invention of print, and are often shown in context: Newspaper food and culture sections show ads for restaurants, travel guides shows ads for travel deals, employment sections show ads for training courses.

Ads are just ads – they are displayed without knowing anything about the person viewing them. They don’t track any personal information when you see them.

So, displaying ads, even in appropriate contexts, is not a privacy issue.  Privacore does it this way, for example on findx, our private search engine

When are ads really the problem?

When online publishers gets paid per click on an ad, it is obvious they will want to show ads that are almost certain to make you act – remember; the more clicks, the more money.

Over the last few years, the online advertising industry has been able to get into a position where online media and publishers are merely nothing else than than a vehicle to show advertisements. This has even been explicitly stated in a court case –  during a lawsuit against an ad-blocking company, the lawyers for Axel Springer (a German publisher) stated “The core business of the plaintiff is to deliver ads to its visitors. Journalistic content is just a vehicle to get readers to view the ads.”

Using fingerprinting techniques for advertisement

One of the reasons for the success of the current online advertising industry, is that agencies have developed what is called “fingerprinting” as a highly refined system to measure and collect your personal behavioural data when you browse the internet and search the web. By connecting this collected data to their ad network juggernaut, it is possible to create very personalized and targeted ads for websites – displaying highly targeted advertisements in front of your eyes, wherever you are on the web.

Google as an advertisement company

Take Google as probably the most prominent example of a successful advertising agency, and the issues it raises with the monopoly-like position they hold  – they have a huge majority of the market share in Europe on search, smartphones and browsers.

Google knows what you write in your emails, which videos you watch and enjoy, what you search for, and on which ads you have clicked. They have created a system, guaranteeing advertisers that they will show you ads perfectly matching your online habits and interests, wherever and whenever you are online.

It’s not hard to target you with search results and advertisements, perfectly matched to spur you into action, and to get you to excitedly click, when advertisers have access to such personal details.

The EU case against Google

That’s why Google is facing a record-breaking fine for web search monopoly abuse, being charged by the European commission in three cases within just a one year period for breaking EU antitrust rules which protect consumers and ensure fair competition.

Tracking personal identifiable information is the problem.

Ads really aren’t the problem though, they can even delight us and make us laugh – it’s the global tracking software that enables agencies to create personal and detailed profiles of people. As result of the trackers, we are exposed to the highly targeted ads, and lured unwittingly into super-effective sales funnels created by those hiring the advertisement agencies  – Now that is the problem.

Until this is dealt with, or the industry’s expectations are changed, ad-blocking will continue to infuriate both publishers and advertising agencies.

Controlling tracking with a private browser

We built Privafox and enabled all privacy-enhancing options by default. You don’t have to worry about changing any settings yourself, so you can feel in control when browsing and searching the internet.

With the Privafox browser you’ll be in control of tracking

What do you think?

We’d love to know if you are either concerned or don’t care about today’s highly targeted advertising practices


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