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Where is privacy in the advertising wars?

| | 2016.03.02. 05:59:12  Gulyás Gábor  


I've recently read a very nice summary of the advertising wars by Steve Feldman (Stackoverflow), and if you are not up to date on the topic, here is an extract for you:

At this point, it’s pretty clear that ad blocking is a big deal. A recent study suggesting the advertising industry is set to lose over $22 billion in 2015 alone as a result of ad blockers is setting off alarm bells. That is a LOT of money. Companies are scrambling to ‘fix’ the ad blocking problem, as active users of ad blocking utilities hits nearly 200 million. But it’s not just that tiny stop sign in the toolbar raising alarms. Apple caused a panic when they announced that iOS9 would permit the use of ad blockers, as many see mobile ads are an important piece of revenue for the industry.

First, the ad industry went up in arms over ad blocking, offering suggestions like developing ways to deliver specific ads to users employing ad blockers. Then, they considered going after Apple when they announced iOS 9 would permit ad blockers. Later, they began asking users to turn off their ad blockers as a sign of good faith. That did not go so well for some. Finally, they prevented Ad Block Plus from attending an industry event. [...] But some in the industry do get it. Eyeo (the company behind Adblock Plus) outlined in their ‘Acceptable Ads Manifesto’ some strong ideas for how to improve digital advertising-- not to mention the iAB’s L.E.A.N Ads program. While there is criticism for both of these solutions, the positive takeaway is that powerful organizations are finally moving toward addressing the problem.

This looks like things started to change! People are now taking actions to solve the fundamental problems that are became part of the ad world over the years. For this reason, I think the Accaptable Ads Manifest and the LEAN Ads program are good initiatives, but I sense a fundamental problem: privacy concerning problems should be tackled more in details, especially tracking.

These are my proposals in order to fill the real gap:

  1. Transparency. Data collection and data processing should be transparent to data subjects. When data collection and use is happening, it should be noticeably and clearly communicated.
  2. Choice to opt-out from data collection. People should decide if they prefer behavioral or contextual ads (no tracking at all). As people might allow being tracked in some contexts, we need more granularity on this as well.
  3. Security. Over the last years, we heard about cases where malware was distributed through ads. Advertising companies need to be responsible for what they distribute; they should check the content first.

However, there is one more thing that I personally miss from this, which is granularity of payment. I like to read news from aggregated sources, instead of visiting news sites directly. For this reason, I'd really prefer to pay per news item that I'd like to read, rather then paying a couple of dollars per month to each media where I might read something. I hope there will be such branches, although there already some similar like Google Contributor or Mozilla Subscribe2Web.


This post originally appeared in the professional blog of Gábor Gulyás.

Tags: web privacy, tracking, adblock, bug, ads, ad industry, advertising wars





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