Not everyone uses an ad-blocker. But most people do. And no matter how much online publications claim ad blocking is the same thing as stealing, it really isn’t. If they’re bent out of shape about it, it’s because they assault users with ads, burying content behind a wall of uncurated virtual salesmen. If it bleeds, it leads, the old saying goes, but now it refers to readers’ processing power and data allotments.
Far too many online publications consider processing the check on the ad buy to be the end of their responsibility. But ad servers get hijacked. Other ad companies get purchased by ad pushers with more malleable morals. Everyone collects reams of data on every site visitor. The end user of sites seems to be the last concern for ad brokers and the people who sell to them, so it’s no surprise more people are deploying ad blockers, seeing as readers of even supposedly-reputable sites have been hit with malware, spyware, and auto-playing video when just trying to access some content.
Ads can be dangerous. They can compromise systems and hijack browsers. The general public definitely knows this. Enjoy this shade thrown at ad saturation and website design overcompensation:
when i go to a website and my computer fan turns on, that’s how i know it’s a good website
— Nicole He (@nicolehe) January 24, 2019
The government knows this as well. And it should, although it really shouldn’t be a trailing indicator on abusive ad deployment. The spyingest agencies of the Intelligence Community don’t just suggest employees should use ad blockers. It mandates them. Here’s Joseph Cox for Motherboard:
Lots of people who use ad blockers say they do it to block malicious ads that can sometimes hack their devices or harvest sensitive information on them. It turns out, the NSA, CIA, and other agencies in the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) are also blocking ads potentially for the same sorts of reasons.
The IC, which also includes the parts of the FBI, DEA, and DHS, and various DoD elements, has deployed ad-blocking technology on a wide scale, according to a copy of a letter sent by Congress and shared with Motherboard.
The letter [PDF], written by Senator Ron Wyden, suggests the rest of the federal government follow the NSA’s lead and implement “network-based ad-blocking technologies” at all federal agencies.
While the intelligence community has acted to protect its personnel and computers from malvertising based threats, many other federal agencies have not, and are unlikely to until they are required to do so. To that end, as OMB [Office of Management and Budget] finalizes its recently released draft Federal Zero Trust Strategy, detailing the specific actions that OMB is requiring federal agencies to take to secure their systems from hackers, I urge OMB to also require agencies to implement the CISA and NSA guidance to block ads.
“Zero trust.” That sounds like an accurate court of the trust most online advertisers have earned. It’s a cesspool out there and publications looking for the easiest way to convert readers to dollars have proven willing to splash around in it under the assumption they’ll always be able to blame the foul odors on their ad partners. But that assumes people will be willing to forgive continuous abuse as long as they can access “free” content. That’s a risky assumption.
And it doesn’t have to be this way. Techdirt has experimented with a blend of ads and direct connection with readers to pay the bills. As ad providers have become less trustworthy and old standbys (like Google’s AdSense) have become increasingly erratic with their policy enforcement, Techdirt has dropped ads completely. There are no Google ads on Techdirt and no analytics trackers logging reader info for data brokers who not only help serve up “targeted” ads but also sell data in bulk to government agencies. Techdirt runs clean and is almost entirely reader-supported. Very few sites are willing to give up money to ensure the safety and privacy of their readers and that’s why ad blocking has never been considered a threat to Techdirt’s business model.
Ad blocking is a must-have these days, even for the federal government. Too much abuse and too little oversight has turned a nicety into a necessity. And if online publications don’t like the current state of affairs, they really have no one but themselves to blame.
Read more: techdirt.com