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Advertising Privacy

Ad Tracking: Is Anything Being Done? 303

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-track-me-bro dept.
bsk_cw (1202181) writes "The W3C's Tracking Protection Working Group has been trying to come up with a way to make targeted ads acceptable to users and useful to advertisers — and so far, hasn't gotten very far. Computerworld's Robert Mitchell has interviewed people on all sides of the issue — consumer privacy advocates, vendors of ad-blocking tools, advertisers and website publishers — to try to unravel the issues and see if any solution is possible at all."
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Ad Tracking: Is Anything Being Done?

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  • by invictusvoyd (3546069) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @05:35AM (#46647179)
    Use noscript , disable cookies. If your tin foil hat is too thick , Tor it out.
  • Here's a thought (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @05:41AM (#46647195)

    a way to make targeted ads acceptable to users

    That's like trying to come up with a way to make waterboarding more enjoyable...

    Advertising, be it on television, newspapers, the internet or roadsign billboards, feels like mind rape to me.

    I'm middle-aged and I remember more ads from my youth than stuff I learned at school. Ads for products that don't even exist anymore, but I can't get rid of the stupid ads in my head. Why do advertisers give themselves the right to pollute people's memory long-term with their shit?

  • by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <plasticfish@info.gmail@com> on Thursday April 03, 2014 @05:50AM (#46647219)

    Why do advertisers give themselves the right to pollute people's memory long-term with their shit?

    They don't see it as a "right" but rather their purpose.

  • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @06:26AM (#46647355)

    Use noscript , disable cookies. If your tin foil hat is too thick , Tor it out.

    The problem with Noscript is that things have changed. You used to be able to block Javascript and most websites worked well enough to still be usable. Today, more and more websites are designed in a such a way that disabling Javascript breaks them completely -- you literally get nothing but a blank page.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @06:30AM (#46647371)

    And cleaning that up will take a LOT of effort and a LOT of goodwill.

    Ad companies poisoned that well, I dare say for good. After years and decades of more and more (in both quality and quantity) obnoxious, irritating and outright rude in-your-face ads, more and more people were pushed to the point where they went and did something against them. We went and installed ad blockers.

    In other words: We found a solution for our problem. Us not watching your ads is not our problem. You, dear ad companies, poisoned your well. You went onto our nerves with increasingly invasive ads. YOU, and ONLY YOU find a way out of that problem.

    And if not, well, so be it. Nobody here really sheds a tear if you go bankrupt.

  • by invictusvoyd (3546069) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @06:38AM (#46647403)

    Today, more and more websites are designed in a such a way that disabling Javascript breaks them completely -- you literally get nothing but a blank page.

    IMHO these websites are examples of bad design . Good design should fall back to plain html/css with ideally, minimum loss of functionality

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @06:42AM (#46647417)

    Then most websites have a broken business model because they're being funded not because of what they offer or have but because of something incidental that happens.

    How many people now brag about not watching TV? And what is the primary source of funds for TV? Advertising.
    How many people now brag about not reading or needing newspapers? And what is the primary source of funds for newspapers? Advertising.

    What's the pattern here?

    Business models that depend on advertising are fundamentally flawed because they depend on something that is incidental to what they provide.

    If I build a popular website that generates 1,000,000 hits a day, but nobody pays to use it, then it could be considered popular but also a money sink.

    If I then throw advertising on it to generate money, it doesn't make the website any more worthwhile and it doesn't represent a worthwhile business model.

    But what about facebook? Well, how many of us would pay to use facebook? Oh, you wouldn't? In that case what value does it have? Yeah. And people pay to advertise on it? More fool them.

  • by wierd_w (1375923) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @06:58AM (#46647461)

    The problem is simple.

    The user wants the CONTENT to have focus, as that is what they go there to get.

    The advertisers want the ADVERTISEMENTS to have focus, so they have "Impact."

    That is why advertisements are obnoxious, obtrusive, cover 80 to 90% of the display, hoover around, make blaring noises, flash rapidly enough to induce epileptic seizures in those vulnerable, and overall make users reach for adblock software.

    The solution? Advertisers need to pay more for less obtrusive ads.

    If a site can get enough revenue to operate on just a simple hyperlinking rotating image banner, they wont need full page flash plague competing with their content.

    But advertisers want eyeballs. ALL of the user's eyeballs. If advertisers had their way, people would spend 80 to 90% of their time watching adverts-- both on the internet and on television.

    Allowing advertisements to become ubiquitous to the point of requiring brain bleach to control is NOT the answer, and only further increases the "Need" to inject yet more adverts to secure a workable revenue stream for the site/channel operators. Basically, they are saturating the market for adverts, and the price paid out per advert served drops. To make up for that, they have to display more adverts. Works GREAT for advertising companies, but is poison for content producers. It has a double-edge, in that as the percentage of time spent viewing adverts goes up, the number of viewers watching the site goes down.

    It should not be any bit at all hard to determine where the two trends meet, especially with the INSANE amounts of analytics going on with advert tracking, and page viewing.

    The problem is that the advert companies dont want to pay what the adverts are actually worth, and are driving the price paid per impression into the ground, while making a killing doing so. Users dont want to actually pay a fee to use the internet's various webpage services, which have traditionally always been free. (with a few exceptions.)

    The real solution is to keep content as the primary focus, put a fucking ball gag and super glue in the mouths of the advertisers, and cut off the flow of gravy by refusing to plaster wall to wall adverts all over the internet, thus making the internet advert real-estate space a premium commodity, commanding a high price through encouraging scarcity.

    Users would easily handle a 30% advert (max), 70% content (min) mix. They will walk away from, or start using adblock to circumvent anything above where the curves meet.

    This isnt hard.

  • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:01AM (#46647471)

    IMHO these websites are examples of bad design . Good design should fall back to plain html/css with ideally, minimum loss of functionality

    Yeah, but then you wouldn't have to whitelist the JavaScript to see the content and get all the advertisements too.

    Working as intended.

  • Re:solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:06AM (#46647489) Homepage Journal

    i love your exaggeration, but am also wondering how a solution could possibly be found.

    Not in this culture. We need to get back to a culture where you willingly pay what things are worth. Sadly, as a producer it's hard to get money from people these days because they are so used to everything being "free".

    What I'd like to see is a seperation between advertisement and product information. You know, if I make something new, I do have a need to let people know about it. And people want to know about new things.

    Can these be brought together with a different model?

  • Re:solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gaygirlie (1657131) <{gaygirlie} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:26AM (#46647569) Homepage

    Not in this culture. We need to get back to a culture where you willingly pay what things are worth.

    It's not that simple as that. If all websites moved away from advertisement-/user-tracking-based income generation to just blocking everything out until you pay a subscription fee then a lot of all the information on the Internet would instantly be locked away from children, the poor, 3rd-world residents and so on. Free (as in gratis) access to information is enormously beneficial on the global scale and I certainly do not wish for us to move away from that.

  • Re:solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gaygirlie (1657131) <{gaygirlie} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:30AM (#46647589) Homepage

    I'm sort of playing devil's advocate here because I hate pop-up ads, but you could put up a pretty strong argument that people accessing free (advertising supported) sites with adblock are the parasites.

    Personally, there are two big reasons for why I block ads: 1) they're way too often enormously annoying, selling all the things I couldn't care less about and they make it hard to actually concentrate on the content I am on the website for in the first place. 2) they're one of the most popular ways of spreading malware on the Internet. Probably the most popular, in fact. I just do not trust ads. The websites I visit are generally more-or-less trustworthy, but the ads may come from anywhere in the world and from any sort of unscrupulous bastards. I just am not willing to compromise my security for a small amount of monetary benefit for the website-owner.

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:59AM (#46647701)
    ... is to sell us shit that we do not need. If we 'needed' something, we would find a way to get it.

    Advertisers try to sell 'happiness', trying to convince us that if we buy their product (car, soda or laundry detergent), we will be happy. It's all a con job.

    I lost interest in internet ads back when they started inserting 'flashing strobe lights' to get my attention, totally annoying! The ad people haven't gotten any better at not annoying me since.

  • by Trax3001BBS (2368736) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:05AM (#46647749) Homepage Journal

    Google has gotten around it with google.com/analytics it used to be googleanalytics.com
    It's the site that sends you your pre-selected ads on a mobile device as defined by where you've been, and who pays them.

  • De-facto reality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjbe (173966) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:29AM (#46647875)

    IMHO these websites are examples of bad design .

    While that is true, in practical terms it is irrelevant. Websites are now designed with little/no graceful degradation. That is simply the situation as it is, for better or worse. Websites are not designed to gracefully fall back and probably won't ever be designed that way going forward. There is insufficient economic incentive for commercial ventures to be bothered so it isn't likely to happen. Few people turn off Javascript and those that do are probably not of commercial interest so why design for them? Very annoying but I don't see any reasonably likely chance that it will change either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:15AM (#46648885)

    I've been an AdBlock/NoScript/FlashBlock user for years. More recently, I've added Ghostery and NoRedirect to my list. I also keep Firebug around for those annoying pop-a-div-over-it-to-block-things sites. Element deletion FTW!

    A few years ago, my mom got hit with some malware from an article she looked up on Oprah's site. Oprah, fer cryin' out loud! I guess malware is one of her favorite things, and she served it up to everyone who visited. So after I wiped and reinstalled everything on her machine, I set up Firefox as her browser, with AdBlock, NoScript, and FlashBlock. Then I explained to her how her machine got the "virus", and how to use these tools to activate only the things she trusts not to do it again.

    She went along with it begrudgingly at first. Then she noticed that all of those annoying ads were gone and pages loaded faster. So aside from having to occasionally allow a host's scripts, she has no problems with it. And she's learned that if there are so many scripts that you can't figure out which one is required to view something, then it's probably not worth bothering with anyway.

    The only way you learn that is by trying it. You activate a bunch of crap, then it loads some stupid thing you didn't really want to see in the first place. And it shoves intrusive ads in your face. After a few of these encounters, you learn not to even bother. My mom learned that lesson and handles NoScript just fine, despite not being a very technically-minded person. She sees that it's an improvement to browse the web without ads or scripts most of the time. So if your site doesn't work with NoScript activated, think about that for a moment.

    A year or so ago, my dad got hit with that "FBI warning" scam malware, and I nuked/paved his install (it was a new laptop, so he didn't even have anything on it). I gave him the same setup as I did for my mom, except by that time I was also loading Ghostery. His response was the same. After a couple of days of getting used to having an extra step to do certain things on some sites, he noticed that everything just works better without ads or scripts.

    Better. That's what turning off Javascript makes the web.

  • Equilibrium (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:15AM (#46648889)

    Sounds like the problem here is advertisers refusing to acknowledge the existence of Nash Equilibrium and operating under the assumption that they can just force their way in whatever way they feel like. The fact of the matter is that a lot of the blocking behavior by web users is the direct consequence of abusive marketing and the failure of the marketers to understand that is leading them to engage in shadier and shadier methods of marketing.

    I don't necessarily mind ads, but I'm not interested in getting infected by them, having flash ads crash my browser or obscure content and I'm certainly not interested in that intellitext bullshit that makes browsing a real headache. And let's not forget about those stupid ads that load late and then cause the entire page to shift or are set to autoplay when I open a page.

  • by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:23AM (#46648971)

    Whatever happened to designing for accessibility?

    It got replaced by designing for profitability.

Whatever is not nailed down is mine. Whatever I can pry up is not nailed down. -- Collis P. Huntingdon, railroad tycoon

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