Tue 29 Oct 2013 06:32:36 AM PDT
Adtech to cookie blockers: STFU, you're tracked anyway
Prediction from inside the Big Adtech filter bubble: Online Advertising, BATNAs & the Failure of Do Not Track by Blair Reeves.
The most promising of those methodologies rely on passive capturedigital fingerprintingtechnology, which identifies the unique combination of your browser configurations, operating system features, font preferences, and dozens of other simple data points to identify a specific user, rather than using a (deletable) browser cookie which lives on a user's device. While this technology isn't widespread yet, it's only a matter of time.
Considering that Firefox has been slow so far to make progress on the fingerprinting problem, does he have a point? Will the browser bugs that allow for fingerprinting remain long enough for adtech to make a relatively smooth shift from cookies to fingerprints?
Spammers had a point about open SMTP relays, too.
It took a lot of people a lot of time to close them,
but eventually the level of annoyance got high enough
that it happened. If I can play Internet optimist
for a minute, it's hard to see how the same thing
wouldn't happen with the fingerprintability bugs.
(My best guess as to how this will play out is that
Chrome and MSIE quietly get their bugs fixed first,
because Google and Microsoft are both trying to
promote their own proprietary user-tracking schemes in
place of fingerprinting. Then, while Firefox catches
common-sense-norm-enforcing Eurocrats take advantage
of the whole continent's breaking out in privacy
to throw the book at the proprietary user-tracking
schemes, forcing Microsoft and Google to make them
optional. So we end up with the fingerprintability
bugs fixed at some point, but with much drama
beforehand. In the meantime, each old-school privacy
nerd will try something totally different, making
old-school privacy nerds the most trackable people
of all. And fraud rings will take advantage of the
switch from cookies to fingerprinting
to increase their already massive rip-off of the
It's fun to see Reeves bringing up the old
Activists want to block creepy
advertising, but consumers love it
meme again. I remember when Sanford Wallace was
telling us the same story about email spam: how mail
server administrators would be forced to take down
their spam filters when their users complained about
missing all those valuable offers.
I don't know why the refractions from adtech's filter bubble keep making regular people look like exhibitionist "consumers", but that point of view doesn't seem to match up with the data. Maybe we should ask Sanford Wallace where he found his silent majority of email spam fans.
Web ads don't have to participate in the same cycle of growth and senescence as junk faxes and email spam, though. This is a common pattern, and Peak Advertising has a bunch of examples of this kind of slash-and-burn marketing. A new ad medium starts off with great results, then volume and response rates fall as volume and annoyance rise. But in an environment where tracking of individual users is not possible, web ads can become just as powerful and sustainable as print.
What not to do when buying
Today the U.S. Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
spammed a dirty list. (This kind of thing is why
legit advertisers need new industry organizations
that haven't been captured by creepy Big Data
intermediaries, but you knew that.)
Bruce Schneier: The Battle for Power on the
On one side are the traditional, organized,
institutional powers such as governments and
large multinational corporations. On the other are
the distributed and nimble: grassroots movements,
dissident groups, hackers, and criminals. Initially,
the Internet empowered the second side. It gave them
a place to coordinate and communicate efficiently,
and made them seem unbeatable. But now, the more
traditional institutional powers are winning, and