(just the thing to spur me out of my pandemic-stress-induced lack of posting, an article I agree strongly with)
I came across Gilad Edelman's article in Wired this week, "Why Don't We Just Band Targeted Advertising?" and it resonated with much of what I believe about how we fix the most toxic and problematic aspects of the 'net. Most of the things we hate about surveillance capitalism flows from the incentives created by micr0-targeting of ads:
“To me, banning targeted ads is the ultimate root-cause solution when it comes to privacy,” Hansson told me. Seemingly every week, there’s another article exposing some company’s creepy behavior. A recent European study, for example, found that the gay dating app Grindr was sharing user data, including precise location history, with 35 different third parties.
But while each revelation is disturbing, the stories shouldn’t really shock us. The behavioral advertising business model has given rise to a teeming ecosystem of adtech firms, including data brokers, that pass user information through each step of the chain between publishers and advertisers. It’s all perfectly legal and very profitable, which explains why established companies like Adobe, Comcast, and Amazon have been getting in on the action. “The only reason that Facebook and others are collecting this data, buying this data—stealing this data—is because the data is so valuable,” Hansson said. “If you reduce the value of that data to near zero, then the entire incentive disappears.”
The article is worth reading, and cautions that banning targeted ads is probably not a panacea to all that ails the web—there will still be incentives to use algorithmic methods to boost engagement, for example—but many of the most egregious problems would take care of themselves.
I've been a fan of alternative business models for the web for a while. For example, I recommend signing up for Coil and helping push that as one alternative; I sent Wired ~0.25 XRP while reading this article. It's not much, but it ads up. If everyone who visited sites like Wired was sending them money just by being there, rather than by clicking on ads, the web would feel very different.