The ad tech industry is a lucrative business, but at what cost? Ad technology companies rake in billions of dollars every year by spying on us through our apps, TVs, cars, and websites. They collect our data and sell it to brokers who offer to buy our purchase records, location data, purchase histories, medical and court records – all without our consent.
This trade surveillance process has three steps: Clue, Profile, and Aim. First, technology silently collects information about who we are and what we do. Then ad tech companies and data brokers try to match this information with what they already know about us. To conclude on a high note, ad technology companies use the profiles they have collected or obtained from data brokers to target ads across websites, apps, TVs, and social media.
However, this data collection and processing can lead to societal harms such as employment discrimination and housing discrimination. It also fuels predatory scams and finds its way into the hands of the military, law enforcement agencies or hostile foreign powers.
Surveillance advertising serves no one except creepy ad-tech companies; for users, editors and advertisers alike – surveillance ads are bad business. It’s time to kill them.
Instead of buying services online in hopes that it will impress tech executives so much that they treat us with dignity; we should ban surveillance ads altogether. If surveillance ads are banned – advertisers will have to find new ways to inform the public about their products and services by going back to contextual ads.
A contextual ad is targeted based on the context in which it appears instead of following users around with behavioral tracking technologies. Instead of identifying relevant content before printing or broadcasting it – publishers would auction off the content and context of their own materials.
There are some obvious benefits to this approach: no surveillance required which is good for readers & society at large; publishers get a bigger slice of the pie than when it’s full of surveillance ads; To finish on a high note if ad tracking were limited only to users who actually consented, revenue from surveillance ads would drop to zero.
It’s time to end the era of surveillance advertising and move towards a more ethical, contextual approach that respects users’ privacy and human dignity.