Apparently online advertising lobbyists have their banners in a twist over Apple’s plans to introduce automatic tracker blocking in Safari.
Most current adware blocking and spyware obfuscation is user-directed. That is, if you don’t want your every move on the internet tracked, collated, and onsold by massive shady multinational surveillance companies, you need to both, a) know the problem exists in the first place, and b) know which in the massive ecosystem of imperfect-but-better-than-nothing anti-spyware products is trustworthy enough to use.1
So while companies like Google and Facebook–whose business models are spying and nothing else–wring their hands with weak and useless “initiatives” designed more to stave off the looming threat of government regulation than protect users, Apple (and, to give them credit, Microsoft) are more and more using “protecting privacy” as their market differentiators. This is why Apple, for example, added a “cop button” to Touch ID in response to that ridiculous US ruling about biometrics.2
And it’s why, one assumes, Apple continues to beef up its browser anti-spyware technology. Apple’s motto has always been “it just works”; that is, their products are intuitive for non-tech types. “It just works” when applied to browser anti-spyware means the browser’s default, unconfigured state should be to deny third-party tracking and micro-targeted advertising. If the latter really does provide the “better user experience” that ad lobbyists like to claim, then users missing their micro-segmented Russian propaganda [content warning for discussions of how Facebook’s advertising platform facilitates antisemitism] can opt-in by using a less privacy-focused browser.
… Yeah. I’m not holding my breath, either.
“But free content on the internet relies on ads!” cry the industry shills.
Well… yes and no. First of all, even when content relies on advertising, there’s no reason whatsoever that it has to rely on the hyper-targeted, micro-segmented, deeply personally intrusive style of advertising sold by platforms like Facebook. The sole reason this type of advertising exists is to give ad platforms an excuse to charge more and, thus, make more money. Keep in mind, I’m not just talking about, say, Google showing you ads for garden supply stores when you search for
how to fix ruptured garden hose. I’m talking about things like Facebook trying to sell you things based on its inference of your current mood. Removing that level of intrusiveness is not, let’s be completely clear about this, going to kill the internet.
Second of all, I am Internet Old and, as such, I absolutely remember a time before the internet decided “spying on everyone, all the time” was going to be its primary business model. Yes, things looked different–they were much more decentralized, for example, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing–but, again, people managed. Just like they do now with things like non-ad-sourced micropayments and premium content subscriptions. Yes, monetizing in this way isn’t “easy” but–and maybe this is just me–that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Particularly when you consider the sort of content that’s profitable in ad-based attention economies…
In other words, bring on the blockers, I say.