Ad blocking, bullshit and a point of order
(Bob Hoffman says that the B
word in a post title is good for more
so let's try it.)
Alex Kantrowitz for Advertising Age: Publishers
Watch Closely as Adoption of Ad Blocking Tech
Adblock Plus, for instance, recently surpassed 300 million installs, according to spokesman Mark Addison, who said it stood at 200 million roughly a year ago. Mozilla has seen more than 200,000 downloads of Adblock Plus nearly every day since Sept. 1. Mr. Addison attributed the extension's popularity primarily to the fact that it is now available on every browser.
Lots of stuff is "available on every browser" but sank
without a splash. There must be something more going
No One Should Be Outed By an
Marc Groman of the Network Advertising Initiative
points out that
A young man or (woman) searches on his computer in the privacy of his home for information about sexual orientation or coming out as gay. Hours or days later, he receives ads for gay-related products or services while surfing on totally unrelated websites. Maybe this happens while at school, in the office or when sharing his computer with family members. Recent developments in cross-device tracking mean that ads for gay events or venues could surface not only on his home computer where he originally searched for the information, but on his work laptop or tablet. In addition, the ads could even be displayed on his parents’ computers, which could unknowingly be linked to his PC because they appear to be part of the same household.
According to Groman, "nearly 100 of the most
responsible companies in online advertising today"
won't do this.
But as for the remaining, less scrupulous adtech
firms, the take-away is: better get your ad blocker
Brian Merchant on
72 percent of US internet users look up
health-related information online. But an astonishing
number of the pages we visit to learn about private
health concerns—confidentially, we assume—are
tracking our queries, sending the sensitive data to
third party corporations, even shipping the
information directly to the same brokers who monitor
our credit scores.
What could possibly go wrong?
That's just a couple of targeted advertising stories
from the past week. And the IAB is worried that ad
blockers are a thing? That's like crapping on the
sidewalk and complaining about people wearing rubber
"Online advertising" is turning into
a subset of "creepy scary stuff on the
Internet." Advertising done right can
be a way to pay for things that people want to
but it's not working.
So why do publishers put up with this? Why not
just run only first-party ads? It's a long
story, but basically because other publishers
If websites could coordinate on targeting, proposition 1 suggests that they might want to agree to keep targeting to a minimum. However, we next show that individually, websites win by increasing the accuracy of targeting over that of their competitors, so that in the non- cooperative equilibrium, maximal targeting results.
So the gamesmanship of it all means that publishers
end up in a spiral of crap.
Ad blocking isn't helping. The AdBlock Plus
"acceptable ads" racket will pass ads that
are superficially less annoying, but still
have fundamental tracking problems. It's
"acceptable" to split a long article into multiple
annoying pages to put ads at top and bottom,
but not to put ads within the flow of a modern
long-scrolling article. "Acceptable ads" requires
1990s-vintage design and avoids fixing the real
Fortunately, there's a solution that works for
users and for publishers. Tracking protection is
a safe, publisher-friendly alternative to ad blocking.
Blocks the creepy stuff, to help publishers, without
dictating design or interfering with quality ads.
Tracking Protection on
filters out tracking, while letting
quality ads through. There's no "acceptable" program
to join, and no limits on design.
Disconnect is a browser
extension to protect users from the "web of invisible
Tracking protection helps publishers solve the big
problem, the problem that the IAB doesn't want to
talk about. Data leakage.
The prime "bovine-fertilizer-based information
solution" here is all the verbiage about trying to
break out the ad blocking problem from the ad fraud
problem from the "print dollars to digital dimes"
problem. It's all connected. Shovel through it all
and you get something like:
Adtech as we know it is based on data leakage.
Ad blocking, along with adtech fraud, is a
side-effect of the data leakage problem.
In the short term, data leakage is bad for
publishers and good for adtech.
Having meetings to express grave concern about ad
blocking isn't the answer, any more than having
meetings to express grave concern about ad fraud is
Arguing about how to clean the carpet while the sewer
pipe is still broken is not the answer.
Getting more users onto tracking protection, as an
alternative to ad blocking? A way to fix data leakage
at the source? For publishers, that's a good step
toward the answer.
Point of order: I'm now avoiding the word "privacy"
If I say it again, it's $1 in the jar for the EFF.
Terms to try to use instead:
Privacy is a big hairy
like the "freedom" in "free software." Plenty of
people are philosophizing about it. But
working with the web every day, the fixes that need to
happen are not in the philosophy department, but in
plugging the leaks that enable dysfunctional ads
and building the systems to enable better ones.
Syndicated 2015-02-26 14:44:08 from Don Marti