Boy did I step in it. But, this time, hopefully in a productive way. A lot of questions about advertising have been raised, and with them… a few common misconceptions.
I’m going to tackle one of them: The security and privacy concerns of viewing ads online. Ever since people learned that a cookie didn’t always mean a tasty treat, people have been scared of what web sites can do in terms of privacy.
But, this is not a primer on cookies. This is an article about how viewing ads, in general, is safe. Or, at the very least, can be made safe without the need to deploy software such as AdBlock.
I will assume that you have a regular internet connection. The vast majority of people do not have to worry about things like Static IPs. Also, I will assume that you are not a conspiracy theorist. The NSA is not cross-referencing Google ad views with ISP logs. And, the main reason, is that doesn’t make sense. The feds can just pull your ISP logs to see what pages you browse, and worse, they don’t need to cross-reference them.
Here’s the deal: Advertisers can follow you from one web site to another, but they don’t know what you’re doing on them. If you want to block most of this, you do so by blocking cookies. Cookies are the common tool advertisers use to follow you from site to site. Even better, there are lots of tools out there that block cookies specifically from advertisers. The publisher still gets paid for you watching the ad, cookie or not.
Even better, some ad companies offer for you to put a cookie on your computer that explicitly opts you out of monitoring. A bit of a pain to do, but again, ethically sound, and again, blocking cookies works just as well.
So, let’s wrap this up. No, security is not a morally-valid excuse to use AdBlock. If you want security and privacy, you are much better off blocking cookies, and power cycling your modem every day or so… so it gets a new IP. In fact, this handles everything AdBlock would protect you from, and it still ensures publishers get paid… and that you aren’t robbing them of their bandwidth, time, and efforts.
In a future article, I will detail the coming storm with people trying to subvert ads, and just how advertisers (and publishers) will strike back… in graphic detail. I’ll give you a quick hint: it taps on a little technology known as AJAX.