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Old 8 Jul 2021, 10:36 AM   #1
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Fastmail joins call to ban surveillance-based advertising

July 7

Surveillance-based advertising is everywhere on the internet. It's bad for consumers, it erodes trust in businesses, and Fastmail believes it should be banned.


Last edited by pjwalsh : 9 Jul 2021 at 09:22 PM.
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Old 9 Jul 2021, 04:35 AM   #2
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Im glad they are trying to do somthing about it...... Its gotton way outta hand!!
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Old 10 Jul 2021, 09:14 PM   #3
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On some points in Bron's post:

One is the lack of user control. Many years ago I thought about this in a different context, when each piece of "adware" installed on one's PC wanted to install a different "ad server"). The way it currently works is that the user has almost no control on the process, which is controlled by by servers of ads that pay operators of websites for leaving space for ads on the user's screen and for providing data or access to data about the user. The owner of the website chooses the ad server and the user is not a party in this deal. It would have been different if the deal was between the ad server and the user: the user would choose a trusted ad server, and the ad server would pay the user with tokens for this, and for data the user is willing to share. The user could use the tokens to pay website owners that leave space for these ads, or the user can pay for these tokens with money and avoid being served any ads. The difference is that the user chooses if and with whom to trust their data. The deal is between ad provider and user, so that the ad provider has to satisfy the user to stay in business.

Another point: Bron mentioned context based marketing: an advertiser pays a professional journal for ad space, and the ad is targeted at a specific professional audience. I think surveillance-based advertising aims to achieve the same effect. There's another important different between the two models: an advertiser in a professional journal pays for physical space on printed paper' and for distribution of the physical medium. Advertising on the web uses space on the user's hardware. The operator of the website that leaves some space for the ads bears no cost for the actual delivery of the ad content.

Bron provided this example: "after you visit an appliance store in person, you won't be prompted with offers to buy a second fridge for the rest of the year!". This is very much like spam. Of course the advertiser's interest is to to tell you about something you need now, but currently they don't know what it is, and they know that you were looking for an appliance, and they don't know whether you already got that appliance or not, and anyway they right now have this spot on your screen that's already paid for, so they put something their, that is the best they can currently do. It you told them more about yourself they may have served more useful info, but then, you don't really trust them, and the info they have on you is based on spying on you and not on collaborating with you. Some of the people that visited a appliance store are still looking for an appliance, and some of them are looking for a fridge, and even if they are looking for another appliance they are aware that businesses that sell refrigerators usually also sell lots of other appliances, so if the advertiser serves fridge ads to a million people that recently looked for an appliance they would perhaps hit a thousand people or more that are sill looking for one, and that would be more cost effective for them than investing on market research. It's the same logic behind spam: if you send a hundred million unsolicited ads you may reach those 500 customers you could also find by market research that would cost you more.

To the last point: "Contending with hyper-personalized advertising is not a fair fight for the human brain". Some science fiction was about the robots that we create taking over from us. This is happening. The robots don't take humanoid form like in science fiction films. The are also not these computer systems using big data methods to collect and analyze our data. They are the huge corporations that we created. Of course corporations are built from many humans. However these humans are just cells in a new organism They become dependent on this organism they are part of and need to sustain it as a whole so it provides them with what they need to sustain themselves. This has happened in the past: we ourselves are composed of cells that cannot exist outside of us. Do we want to evolve into cells of a bigger organism? Have we already evolved into such cells or can we yet avoid this destiny?
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Old 10 Jul 2021, 11:54 PM   #4
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I am reminded of that old line that 50% of advertising dollars are wasted, but nobody knows which 50%. Frankly, I think advertisers are now wasting closer to 90% of their ad dollars based on the ads I see that are of no interest to me. Yes, if I research toilets I then see ads for toilets for weeks and months afterwards, but there are only so many toilets I want to purchase. But, a lot of the time I just don't understand what surveillance of me is telling them. For example, I frequently see ads for restaurants that aren't around where I live or travel. In one case, I never heard of the restaurant chain and looked it up and there were none in the entire region of the country where I live. Similarly, I get constant ads for Internet and broadband providers that don't exist where I live. Or lawn care services that don't service where I live. Once after ordering some presents for my wife and daughter I kept seeing ads for women's clothing for months afterwards even though I am a man. Is that effective? It seems to me the surveillance advertising mechanism must be incredibly inefficient. I wonder if anyone has studied the effectiveness of surveillance-based advertising vs. context-based advertising?
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Old 11 Jul 2021, 02:51 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by TenFour View Post
. Once after ordering some presents for my wife and daughter I kept seeing ads for women's clothing for months afterwards even though I am a man. Is that effective?
In this particular case: yes. You are a person (gender doesn't matter here) who bought some presents for women, so suggesting you buy more of the same makes sense.
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