Things like tracking you, via centralised analytics, and retargeted advertising. Inferring interests and demographics from your browsing habits. Sharing that data with others. Those sorts of things.
You hit a site, a cookie is set, and from that moment onwards – blockers notwithstanding – you’re not anonymous anymore. They might not know who you are yet, but they do know that you’re you. Your consent to this process has been assumed. In their view, you’ve given it implicitly, simply by visiting. Try to construct a real-world analogue of that situation, and you quickly see how there can be no ethics-based defence of the practice.
You can always go elsewhere, of course. You can close the browser tab, or do another search. You’ve lost nothing, and you’re gone. Except that neither of those statements are true.
You have lost something, and not just time: you’ve lost a period of attention, and that’s the only actual currency you should be measuring with. You’re also still there; a ghost of yourself, lingering behind in a row of a database, ready for wider correlation – or reanimation upon your next visit.
When you look at it like that, advertising (and whatever the tracking gleans) doesn’t actually pay for the content you consumed. Actually, the content repays you for what was already taken.Read More »