Saturday, April 28, 2018

Internet advertising is broken. It abuses users, starves publishers of revenue, and creates unprecedented levels of fraud for advertisers

Internet advertising started simply, but over time organically evolved a mess of middle players and congealed into a surveillance economy. Today, between end users, publishers and advertisers stand a throng of agencies, trading desks, demand side platforms, network exchanges and yield optimizers. Intermediaries track users in an attempt to improve revenue.

It’s an inevitable consequence of such a system that users end up treated as a resource to be exploited. When you visit the celebrity website TMZ, for instance, you face as many as 124 trackers, according to a Crownpeak test. Your data is stored and profiled to retarget promotions that shadow you around the Internet. You become the product. Some claim your data is not “sold,” but access is certainly rented out.

The Facebook-Google ad duopoly also vacuums up gigabytes of personal data: Google collects the places you’ve gone, devices you’ve used, everything you’ve searched or browsed, pictures of your children, emails, contacts and more. Facebook knows where you logged on and has access to webcams and microphones, emails, messages, call logs and more....

The inconveniences go beyond privacy. Studies show that as much as half the data consumed on mobile plans goes to downloading ads and trackers, adding significantly to fixed mobile data plans. The sheer scale of material adds at least five seconds to mobile page load times, according to the New York Times. As much as 50% of mobile battery life is consumed by ads while browsing....

The internet need not be characterized by predation and parasitism. It can once again be a place of infinite possibility. Innovation got us into this situation; it can get us out.