Friday, August 9, 2019

on privacy and adblockers

At work someone posted a piece from the EFF, Adblocking: How About Nah? Talking about the arms race between users who want to see stuff online and resent the privacy violations ad providers utilize and the content providers and the advertisers. "How About Nah?" is the message of a consumer using an Adblocker to the site that wants them to accept the ads along with the content.

My responses were as follows:
Two thoughts: 
First is, one example of an “adversarial interoperability” are botnets that pretend to suck down content and dutifuly view the ads  - or sometimes just watching the ads themselves. If you’ve ever wondered how that Captcha of “I am not a robot” works when it’s just a checkbox - it is tons and tons of data scraping, from if your mouse movement is following human-ish patterns to IP locations and the like. One thing I learned working for adserving platforms is how there is rampant number abuse, and a completely unfair landscape for anyone trying to set up an “honest” ad service - it has to look competitive with completely inflated numbers from the other folks services 
The other is, “How About Nah” has a lot of swagger, but I think a more relevant concept - one the article doesn’t touch on - is “information wants to be free, but rent wants to be paid”. So much of this springs from the 90s establishing how people will embrace crappy and free before clean and cheap. 
I can’t blame people - they are rightfully nervous about how a penny here, a 1/10 penny there might add up. I think the first iPhone succeeded hinged on its plan from AT+T featuring all you can eat data - (which given networks speeds wasn’t all that much :-D)  - but if people made the move from the hell of WAP (infamous for nickel and dime-ing folks) to the real Internet on the go, they needed some reassurance they weren’t going to get hosed on data fees. 
Personally, I have a moderate stance on privacy - instinctively I don’t care that much as long as I know my value is only as a demographic’d consumer, and I don’t like that the conversation doesn’t distinguish between truly invasive privacy stuff (like humans seeing my content I thought was private) and more run of the mill stuff — or from people who take the “it’s my computer and my bandwidth, how dare those hucksters steal it” while ignoring the costs and salaries that might have gone into getting the content up that brought the person there in the first place

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