blog: Don Marti


Want to lose a hacking contest or win a reputation contest?

27 August 2017

Doc Searls: How the personal data extraction industry ends.

Our data, and data about us, is the crude that Facebook and Google extract, refine and sell to advertisers. This by itself would not be a Bad Thing if it were done with our clearly expressed (rather than merely implied) permission, and if we had our own valves to control personal data flows with scale across all the companies we deal with, rather than countless different valves, many worthless, buried in the settings pages of the Web’s personal data extraction systems, as well as in all the extractive mobile apps of the world.

Today's web advertising business is a hacking contest. Whoever can build the best system to take personal information from the user wins, whether or not the user knows about it. (And if you challenge adfraud and adtech hackers to a hacking contest, you can expect to come in third.)

As users get the tools to control who they share their information with (and they don't want to leak it to everyone) then the web advertising business has to transform into a reputation contest. Whoever can build the most trustworthy place for users to choose to share their information wins.

This is why the IAB is freaking out about privacy regulations, by the way. IAB member companies are winning at hacking and failing at building reputation. (I want to do a user focus group where we show people a random IAB company's webinar, then count how many participants ask for tracking protection support afterward.) But regulations are a sideshow. In the long run regulators will support the activities that legit business needs. So Doc has an important point. We have a big opportunity to rebuild important parts of the web advertising stack, this time based on the assumption that you only get user data if you can convince the user, or at least convince the maintainers of the user's trusted tools, that you will use the data in a way that complies with that user's norms.

One good place to check is: how many of a site's readers are set up with protetcion tools that make them "invisible" to Google Analytics and Chartbeat? (script) And how many of the "users" who sites are making decisions for are just bots? If you don't have good answers for those, you get dumbassery like "pivot to video" which is a polite expression for "make videos for bots because video ad impressions are worth enough money to get the best bot developers interested."

Yes, "pivot to video" is still a thing, even though

News from the "pivot to video" department, by Lara O'Reilly, at the Wall Street Journal:

Google is issuing refunds for ads that ran on websites with fake traffic...


Google’s refunds amount to only a fraction of the cost of the ads served to invalid traffic, which has left some advertising executives unsatisfied...


In the recent cases Google discovered, the affected traffic involved video ads, which carry higher ad rates than typical display ads and are therefore an attractive target for fraudsters.

(read the whole thing. If we're lucky, Bob Hoffman will blog about that story. "Some advertising executives unsatisfied"? Gosh, Bob, you think so?)

The good news here is that legit publishers, trying to transform web advertising from a hacking game into a reputation game, don't have to do a perfect job right away. Incrementally make reputation-based, user-permissioned advertising into a better and better investment, while adfraud keeps making unpermissioned tracking into a worse and worse investment. Then wait for some ambitious marketer (and marketers are always looking for a new angle to reinvent Marketing) to discover the opportunity and take credit for it.

Anyway, bonus links.

Facebook Figured Out My Family Secrets, And It Won't Tell Me How

This App Tracks Political Ads To See Who Is Targeting Your Vote–And Why

Designers are using “dark UX” to turn you into a sleep-deprived internet addict

AdTech Weekly - Issue 53: Librarians care more about your privacy than most. - Aug 18th 2017

Rise of the racist robots – how AI is learning all our worst impulses

Getting To The Holy Grail: How Publishers Measure The Incremental Value Of Ad Tech Partners

Linguistic data analysis of 3 billion Reddit comments shows the alt-right is getting stronger

Let’s Talk About The Brand Safety Tax

The state of the brand crackdown on media transparency

Brands are now blacklisting mainstream news sites, including Fox News

Data-hucksters beware: online privacy is returning | John Naughton

Remember that Norwegian site that made readers take a quiz before commenting? Here’s an update on it