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Ads & Your Privacy

Big tech will continue to lead the charge on mass collection of user information that is enriched overtime as a user visits more websites.

Shawn Smith
Shawn Smith
3 min read
Ads & Your Privacy

Ads for some businesses are their lifeblood. Now with new EU laws, many are looking at ways to ensure their visitors are forewarned about their tracking intent.

In practice, this is more annoyance than ever with pop-ups, overlays and hideous acceptance buttons. For me as a consumer, they annoy the shit out of me for two reasons.

  1. Their design is terrible. I'm thinking of a pop-up or some flashy-looking thing that is screaming for my attention.
  2. Big tech is following me. Yes, you are right, they are. The tech industry has built massive systems to profile you with pinpoint precession.

Let's skip over the first point as it's a personal opinion. So let's take a look into number 2, privacy. Privacy, as Tim Cook may have you think,

privacy is a fundamental human right

Let's go a little deeper

If you have been on any mainstream website, a tiny piece of data is saved on your machine called a cookie. No, it's not something that comes from Sesame Street.

What are cookies? Initially built in 1994 at Netscape, the cookie solved the user experience of remembering you. Think of it as a unique ID of you and your visit to a website. These can assist you like automatically logging in or keeping your items in your shipping cart. In technical terms, this is called first-party cookies.

The Ecosystem

On one side, you have brands or media buyers. They want to be in front of their new and existing customers when the time is right. They will buy the available space - like a digital billboard - for their ads.

On the other side, you have platforms and publishers. Right now, Trizone would be one of those - more on Trizone a little later - and news sites like The Age or The Herald Sun.

Then there is the middleman. These are the platforms that are the delivery system for those ads. Some are more integrated and play a much more significant role as they are the middleman and the platform, e.g. Google and Facebook. The more information they have about you, the better they are at providing the service, which brings in more revenue.

Going back to the original intent for the now famous cookie. It was only ever intended to provide a 2-way relationship - the user and the website and not to be passed around. This is where third-party cookies come into play. Third-party cookies are pieces of data added to your browser for another site to know where you have been—a little like Hansel and Gretel.

An example of how this can happen is when you visit a website and there's a small Facebook element (Facebook share) on the page. Without even interacting with that element, Facebook will insert a tiny cookie into your browser. This is where Facebook can access data from the website you are on. Even more worrying is when you visit another website that has another Facebook element, it will do the same. This is called tracking.

This video does a great job of showing what happens in a non-technical way.

What's changed?

Some browsers over the last few years have blocked ad trackersand are now blocking third-party cookies. Sounds great, right? Well, let's not get too excited just yet. The likes of Facebook and Google are getting around this, especially when there is trillions of dollars at stake.

What can you do?

If you must use Google Chrome, ensure you turn on Do Not Track.

You may not have the power within your business to make a change as I've mentioned above, yet on a personal front, you do. For me, over at Trizone, I'm making a stance for the community. I believe as a business, we should not provide any company with the data. Thus, we will remove any services that fit into this category, e.g. Google analytics.

Shawn Smith Twitter

Call me a technologist or whatever you choose. I’m a conversation starter with a deep routed idea of technology for the better. I’m confronting at times and I’m peaceful without smoking a joint.