back to article As browser rivals block third-party tracking, Google pitches 'Privacy Sandbox' peace plan

On Thursday, Google reminded everyone who might have forgotten that "privacy is paramount to us" and announced an initiative called "Privacy Sandbox" that proposes paving over a few privacy pitfalls without suffocating its ad business. It takes a certain chutzpah for a company with such a lengthy history of privacy scandals to …

  1. JohnFen Silver badge

    Yeah, pull the other one

    "Our goal is to create a set of standards that is more consistent with users' expectations of privacy."

    My expectation of privacy is that companies like Google, Facebook, etc., will not spy on me. Nothing in their "privacy sandbox" nonsense addresses the privacy invasions that Google itself constantly engages in.

    1. Suricou Raven Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, pull the other one

      No, you're reading it wrong. The standards are consistent with users' expectations of privacy, because by this point users expect Google to be monitoring them.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Yeah, pull the other one

        I know, that's why I referred to my privacy expectations, not the general public.

        Also, fuck Google. They are actively and intentionally damaging not only the internet, but people all around the globe.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Yeah, pull the other one

        My wife isn't tech literate. She came to me a year ago and asked me to de-Google her Android phone.

        As far as possible, all Google services and apps have been disabled - only the Play Store was still enabled. Chrome has been replaced by Firefox and DuckDuckGo does the searching. So far, she is very happy, although I did turn Google Maps back on for her - but disabled history.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yeah, pull the other one

          Install a nonroot firewall (greyshirts firewall, netguard, etc) and block a least the following:

          Google Play Store

          Google Services Framework

          Google Contacts Calendar Services

          If your nonroot firewall has a log, it should be easier to see what other services or app is stealing your data and you should block it.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yeah, pull the other one

          You do realise that all that does is hide the history from you? Google still has it. You cannot de-Google Android, this is be design.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Yeah, pull the other one

            The applications are deactivated or deinstalled.

          2. Chronos Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: Yeah, pull the other one

            FSVO "Android." It's quite possible - and rather simple - to run applications of your choice without ever spaffing your willy size to the Chocolate Factory.

        3. Timmy B Silver badge

          Re: Yeah, pull the other one

          "My wife isn't tech literate. She came to me a year ago and asked me to de-Google her Android phone.

          As far as possible, all Google services and apps have been disabled - only the Play Store was still enabled. Chrome has been replaced by Firefox and DuckDuckGo does the searching. So far, she is very happy, although I did turn Google Maps back on for her - but disabled history."

          I have to ask... Why?

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Yeah, pull the other one

            She doesn't like being followed around...

            1. Timmy B Silver badge

              Re: Yeah, pull the other one

              "She doesn't like being followed around..."

              You are sure that Google isn't secretly recording the maps usage? I hope you offlined all the maps when at home and have the data and wifi off on the phone.

              She isn't being followed around any more than she is when she walks past a CCTV camera or goes in a shop. Hope she doesn't do these things. Or pay taxes. Or have a job.

          2. DJV Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Why?

            The fact that YOU have to ask why shows where a lot of the problem lies...

            1. Timmy B Silver badge

              Re: Why?

              No. I understand the percieved issues. But I think that it's simply pointless panicked arm waving. If people are that bothered about these things then ditch the smart phone and have something that just makes calls, another thing that just navigates and another that just takes pictures. This can be done easily and these devices exist. I think all this avoidance is futile, pointless and just too much blooming effort for me to worry about. Every time I step out of my door I'm on CCTV. Every time I go into a shop I am being recorded and if I don't use cash then even more so. Long ago we lost any sembalance of privacy.

              You can't even escape and go and live off grid because at some point Google maps, or the government or just some nosy passer by will find you.

              There are far more imporant things to worry about than if Google knows what I had for breakfast.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, pull the other one

      After inventing new and interesting ways to get round browser privacy controls (the most famous being Google circumventing Safari cookie controls from a few years back), Google are hitting a brick wall when it comes to slurping from non-Chrome browsers, so they therefore invent this privacy sandbox which will be anything but that.

      Hopefully none of the other browser makers are stupid enough to take them at their word, but Microsoft probably will be and Google will have a try at putting it in Chromium.

      1. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: but Microsoft probably will be

        Ok, assuming that isn't just el Reg Tourettes, why would MS "take them at their word"?

        Google are probably MS' biggest problem atm, MS will do anything they can to make "us" include MS and exclude Google.

        I doubt the tiny bing advertiser contingent bring in enough revenue for MS to side with Google on this..

        1. ArrZarr Silver badge

          Re: but Microsoft probably will be

          While in Europe Google have >90% market share, Bing do have ~30% of the market share in the US.

          That's still a lot of money.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: but Microsoft probably will be

          They will certainly implement it if it means they can slurp more data themselves. Even PowerShell is slurped now.

          1. sabroni Silver badge

            Re: but Microsoft probably will be

            Compare ArrZarr's response with its valid argument to your "oh yes they will!". One is pantomime, one makes a good point.

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: but Microsoft probably will be

              Both make the point that MS is slurpy corporation therefore there is a distinct possibility that they will do it.

              If you believe MS isn't a slurpy corporation you can always reply stating why. You can cite news over the past week about Skype, Cortana, XBox One, and Powershell if you think it helps your case.

    3. slartybartfast

      Re: Yeah, pull the other one

      If you sign up to Gmail, it forces you to accept two policies that give Google the right to monitor, track and analyse your emails and other activities. I have literally zero confidence in Chrome’s privacy policies if such behaviour is being used in Gmail.

    4. Cavehomme_

      Re: Yeah, pull the other one

      My expectation of privacy is that I am happy to receive inobtrusive, quality ads, like on a roadside billboard, but not to be tracked and targeted. I'm also happy for referrers to receive their rightful commission.

      The problem is that Google Greed went way too far and before people and regulators had much idea about what was really going on. Now G need reeling in, then when on board the boat, a swift hit to their head.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    those who sought privacy were probably doing something wrong

    That depends on ones perspective.

    Some authoritarian countries believe that journalists and protestors are doing "something wrong"

    See also: NSO Group

  3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Proposal: "Some third party cookies treated as first party"

    No. No, no, no.

    Cookies were designed with a privacy mechanism. Third party cookies are a deliberate attempt to circumvent that privacy.

    When said vulnerability was realised, if it wasn't for the vested interest, the flaw would have been fixed.

    Only now are browser makers looking to address the problem. Anything else, no matter what weasel words are used is basically again trying to take advantage of the original flaw.

    No third party cookies, period. (Yes, I know it's still possible to have the same functionality with first party cookies, but it requires more effort, and shows obvious intent to do so, which will be more important thanks to GDPR and general improvements in user awareness)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can you help?

    "to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users"

    Any idea what do they mean by "continue"?

    Admittedly, I don't know about ads cause uBlock Origin, but when I occasionally search youtube for, say, a shirt ironing video, it then keeps suggesting ironing videos the rest of the day even when I've been watching Sex Pistols videos for the last three hours.

    I suspect that either their definition of "continue" or their definition of "relevant" is not the one found in a normal dictionary.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Can you help?

      Shirt Ironing?

      John Lydon tuts in your general direction.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        John Lydon tuts in your general direction.......

        ....through a mouthful of toast and Country Life butter.

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          Re: through a mouthful of toast and Country Life butter.

          That advert paid for the last PiL album.

          It's a swindle! But not the greatest in Rock n Roll.

          Sounds like someone still hasn't worked it out.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can you help?

        Just needs a bit of soul...

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOHTnWJpX2s

    2. Tony W

      It's not just (or even mainly) about 'relevant' ads

      If you say you don't want relevant ads, why do they still track you?

      It's about amassing as much personal information about you as possible, in the hope and expectation that they will be able to make money out of it.

      And for an ordinary person it is almost impossible to avoid.

      Stopping tracking and privacy-busting scripts in a browser will break some useful sites. If your friends and extended family use Facebook to keep in touch, and all their friends do the same, you can ditch it yourself only at considerable social cost. And my most recent example: not wanting to use gmail as a backup to my independently hosted mail, I tried my ISP's email, only to find that it's Yahoo and I would have to accept an appalling set of anti=privacy terms and conditions to use it.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Why do they track you?

        @Tony - also, the world has changed. In the good old days people read magazines and watched telly and the advertisers targeted their ads based on the types of people likely to be reading a particular paper/mag or watching a programme. Now, most people get stuff on just a few channels. Advertisers can't really target ads based on someone being a Facebook user or a YouTube watcher.

        I'm not defending the advertisers - I've got a suite of shields - but I think that where they first went wrong was in becoming intrusive and annoying, just as they did by putting inserts and cardboard sniff-pages in the glossy mags, which only served to highlight their deeper behaviours. However, as this article notes, they only do it because they can and they can because the likes of Google, Facebook, etc., don't give a toss about users' privacy.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Why do they track you?

          I don't agree. If I'm watching a youtube video, they can infer from the type of video what sort of adverts to send me.

          "But what about random cat videos?" I hear you say (I forgot to take my medication)

          Well, use the same criteria as the advertisers use for those vapid celebrity/gossip magazines.

          No, they do deeper tracking because they can.. Blocking their attempts isn't unfairly moving the goalposts - it's putting the goalposts back to where they always were.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why do they track you?

          You can still apply the same model: target the ads to the *content* that people are consuming on the site where you're showing the ad.

          It's a model that probably even works better anyway. I've always suspected Google et al. just claimed at the time that their "behavioural" tracking was better, just to differentiate themselves from the competition.

          I don't have any evidence about Google et al. themselves, but that is what those guys from Oxford Analytica claimed when they were selling their political campaigns, and it is known that it didn't work at all.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: It's not just (or even mainly) about 'relevant' ads

        "If you say you don't want relevant ads, why do they still track you?"

        For the same reason that telemarketers call numbers on the do-not-call list, or spammers try and get around anti-spam measures.

        Arrogance.

        "Sure, you don't want spam email/calls/ads, I get that, but my advert/product is DIFFERENT. I'm doing you a favour"

        1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: It's not just (or even mainly) about 'relevant' ads

          For the same reason that telemarketers call numbers on the do-not-call list, or spammers try and get around anti-spam measures.

          But those calls are *ENTERTAINMENT* for me. I get my jollies harassing the spammers...

          I just need to learn a few Hindi insults...

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Can you help?

      No idea what relevant means. Generally I only get shown adverts for products I've recently purchased.

      Our dishwasher broke earlier this year, I bought a replacement over Amazon, and since then I get daily emails and adverts for new dishwashers! How many do they think I need?

      I've now set up a Pi-Hole at home to block all major tracking sites. Advertising domains that have allowed malware to be funnelled through their sites are also blocked - E.g. Google, Facebook etc.

      1. Jon Blund

        Re: Can you help?

        You have to drop the concept of the adverts being targeted at you in order to influence you. They are targeted at you so that the companies involved in the distribution of the ads can invoice their customers with reasonably good consciences.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can you help?

          Completely agree, although I don't think it has anything to do with having a conscience as I'm sure these ad slinging vermin wouldn't know one if it bit them in the face. More to do with being able to swerve prosecution for taking money under false pretences.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Can you help?

          "the companies involved in the distribution of the ads can invoice their customers with reasonably good consciences."

          I doubt that. Those companies have no consciences.

  5. eldakka Silver badge

    "Some ideas include new approaches to ensure that ads continue to be relevant for users,

    I'd say old approaches are needed for relevant ads like in the print-media days, like:

    If I am on a car site, show me adds about cars and/or car-related accessories.

    While reading an article about an F150 pickup, show me ads relevant to pickup trucks such as other manufacturers equivalent models, accessories for F150s, e.g. decorative antlers so I can look like I've gone hunting.

    If I read an article about Tesla's, show me ads for other EVs.

    If I visit a shopping website and am browsing the kitchen appliance section, how about, i don't know, showing me ads about kitchen appliances or other kitchen/cooking related subjects?

    I don't want to see ads for TV's when I've just bought one and I'm reading about motorbikes. Or ads for dildo's when on a political news site (well, OK, I can see the relationship there). Or ads for cars on newegg, or on ebay if I'm browsing the knitting wool section.

    It's not that fucking hard.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Ads schmads

      I don't want to see ads for TV's when I've just bought one and I'm reading about motorbikes. Or ads for dildo's when on a political news site (well, OK, I can see the relationship there). Or ads for cars on newegg, or on ebay if I'm browsing the knitting wool section. unless I explicitly look for them.

      Fixed that for me, and perhaps for you.

    2. NATTtrash
      Childcatcher

      Although I agree with your base principles, I'm afraid your analogy with print media doesn't work. What you're omitting is that with printed advertisement "the user" has some meaningful influence. Like with other life situations, saying no means no. In the digital world this seems to be like a red light in Naples: a nice suggestion. Furthermore, printed advertisement is seen one time, and then lands in the bin. The digital version is like a sweaty guy, running after you continuously, harassing you to read the ads again. Again. And again...

      Oi, did you see this? You know you're missing out, don't you? Come on, don't act so difficult, take another look. Mate, I'm only saying this because you're my friend, and I don't want you to miss out. This opportunity will not come back you know. And what an opportunity it is! You do realise that, don't you? Really, you are a bit of an arse if you don't grab this one. Oh COME ON, don't be such a tosser, look at this and I will lift the block on what ever you wanted to do here originally...

      I suppose because the reach/ spread of the digital world is so big, those peddling their cookies think they get away with it without any backfire. And, to be honest, they are right. Where in the "real world" things are a bit more absolute, in the digital universe other rules seem to apply. Which by now cross over back to the real world. Ah well, their advantage is that those people that do remember that it was illegal (not to mention rude) to steam open other peoples mail to read it will disappear without them having to do anything for it. So let's just drill their replacements on the new norm (history buffs: sound familiar?)

    3. Christopher Reeve's Horse

      "It's not that fucking hard." This! Exactly what this man said! It's all about the context!

      There doesn't need to be a conflict between privacy and advertising, it's just that Google chooses to leverage user information to attract advertisers. I guess from Google's perspective the target audience can be sized far beyond 'context only' advertising (as per pick up truck example above). If Ford want 500,000 people to see it's adverts for a pick up truck, then it's much easier to accomplish if those ads are injected into any website rather that only those related to cars and pickup trucks, so I can see the advantage for Google, it's just a shame it's at odds with the behaviour I'd like to experience as a user.

      Context is critical, and no matter how much data Google collects it will NEVER know the context of why I've searched for something. Maybe I searched for that F150 because I want to buy one, maybe I searched because I think they're fucking stupid. Maybe it's because I just saw someone load a dismembered body into the back of one, and I wanted to double check I was reporting the correct model of vehicle to the police...

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Maybe it's because I just saw someone load a dismembered body into the back of one, and I wanted to double check I was reporting the correct model of vehicle to the police...

        But then Google would fill all your screen ad spaces with offers on axes, quicklime and rolls of carpet...

  6. DougS Silver badge

    Google wants to keep user information private from everyone else

    But not themselves. That's pretty easy to do in their own browser which can simply upload the list of sites users have visited to Google, and don't need to muck about with cookies to track them. They only need the cookies for people using IE, Firefox and Safari.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Google wants to keep user information private from everyone else

      That's what they mean with 'keeping much more user information on-device only' - if you control the devices (Chrome, Android) you only have access to those information, and the others have to pay you for targeting based on those information.

  7. David M

    Paying for free stuff

    If companies need the income from advertising, why not just have the option to directly charge users instead? If, for instance, Facebook charged (say) £3 per month in return for the promise of no advertising or tracking, they'd get broadly the same per-user income either way. News websites might want to charge per page view, as people probably wouldn't want a regular subscription to lots of them, so some kind of micro-payment provider would be useful, but none of this is particularly difficult to implement. It might turn out that most people are happy with the "free stuff+advertising+tracking" model, but those who didn't like it would have an alternative.

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: Paying for free stuff

      If you are a large website with lots of content like Youtube or a site where people visit frequently like a social media website, then a subscription or ppv option might work. But that wouldn't really work for a site you might only visit once because you are searching for some particular bit of information, so land on a blog article or news article. Advertising on these smaller websites is the only viable option.

      If I were to pay even a nominal amount of 10p per visit to these site, it would soon make my web surfing astronomically expensive.

      I find targeted ads very stupid anyway, I search for a new phone and then buy it, yet for weeks afterwards I am still getting targeted ads for phones even though I never click on them.

      And for weeks I kept getting make up ads on Youtube even though I am male, have never searched for makeup on there, am the only person who uses the device, and mostly watch comedy, cars, music and tech videos on Youtube.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Paying for free stuff

        Strangely, I never get makeup ads on YouTube, even though I do sometimes watch makeup videos.

        I presume they are rubbish brands that no makeup wearer would ever buy, and they want you to buy it as a present for your partner.

    2. Joe Harrison

      Re: Paying for free stuff

      If Facebook charged three pounds a month I think a very large proportion of the userbase would abruptly stop using it. Or to put it another way if Facebook thought they could get away with charging a monthly subscription fee then they already would have done it. There's your answer as to why it is unlikely to happen.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Paying for free stuff

        I suspect that you're right. But what that actually means is that Facebook isn't bringing much value to people.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Paying for free stuff

      You can't grow the business as well as forcing advertisers to bid for your ads space. Users aren't willingly to pay as much for Facebook access, as for most it won't increase their income.

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "privacy is paramount to us"

    Oh yes, it definitely is. You want to know everything about our privacy in order to monetize it, we know.

    And that's why we have NoScript and uBlock Origin.

    You don't like that ? Well it's your fault in the first place.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Privacy Sandbox

    ANYTHING coming from Google should be treated with suspicion. If peppered with "privacy" and "user benefit", I grab my tinfoil hat and dive for the cellar...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @AC - Re: Privacy Sandbox

      Hearing Google speak about privacy is like hearing Stalin lecturing about human rights.

    2. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Privacy Sandbox

      > ANYTHING coming from Google should be treated with suspicion.

      <soothing voice>

      There, there. There's no need to worry. The answer's in the name - "sandbox". A sandbox is somewhere children can go and play safely. They can pretend they are building castles or tall buildings; using large, earth-moving equipment; or burying their younger siblings, knowing that a trusted, responsible adult is watching over their every move, ensuring safety at all times. That is what the Google Privacy Sandbox will provide: responsible adults in the form of AI algorithms and trusted partners (and certainly not whoever is the highest bidder this week) will watch over your every move and ensure that everything you do online will be safe.

    3. Chronos Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Privacy Sandbox

      Oh, how we laughed when GoOgle's tag-line was "Don't Be Evil." This was predicted when the more gullible in the technosphere were praising Goog's "open and honest" development model and how good a place it was to work - if you were impressed by open-plan and "benefits" that crammed you into society's ideal of how you should be.

      Even Cory Doctorow managed to see through it very early in the process.

  10. The Central Scrutinizer

    Pfft....

    Whenever I see a whiney little message pop up about me using an ad blocker on a website, I never go back.

    Foot, meet gun.

    1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Pfft....

      Whenever I see a whiney little message pop up about me using an ad blocker on a website, I never go back.

      Especially when I'm *not* using an ad-blocker. I'm blocking third-party cookies and the like. Although I suppose that means I'm using a TARGETED-ad blocker, so the words fit in there someplace.

      Recently I went to an Amazon listing for a product I had looked at, and had even put on my "wish list" to pick up at a later date. Ads for that specific listing started showing up everywhere, so I put a "product review" on the product that I would NOT be buying it specifically because the ads were harassing me.

      Maybe we ALL need to start flooding product reviews with such statements. Maybe even make an add-in for Firefox & others that will automate it for us.

  11. Cederic Silver badge

    Whose goal matters?

    "Google's goal is also to keep the web safe for advertising."

    My goal is to never see advertising on the web. So far I'm way ahead of Google.

    Unfortunately that doesn't stop them (and others) tracking my web usage anyway, but I do make it harder for them.

  12. Rich 2 Silver badge

    3rd party sites

    A major problem that the web at large has walked into is that many many websites hook into third party libraries to provide basic functionality.

    Most of the time this means google apis and of course this is EXACTLY what google intended all along. They have made themselves iindespensible. And they no doubt track all those requests into them for those librarians. If Google disappeared overnight (hope springs eternal) then half the web sites would fall over.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: 3rd party sites

      "They have made themselves iindespensible."

      Not really. They have made people think that they're indispensable. That's an important difference.

  13. Alister Silver badge

    Privacy is Paramount

    Perhaps they meant the Film Studios, or the Hotel?

  14. A.P. Veening Silver badge

    Disclaimer: No advertisers were harmed in making this project

    Am I the only one who is seriously disappointed by this disclaimer? In my not so humble opinion, harm is exactly what advertisers deserve.

  15. Wade Burchette Silver badge

    Liar, liar, pants on fire!

    This is from Amazon's Washington Post: "The problem, according to Google, is that users want privacy but 'publishers' economic viability' (how they make money) is dependent on tracking users in a way that is similar to assigning them a web-wide global identity."

    LIAR! Not too long ago there were ads that were quite successful without tracking you. This model was quite successful when the world wide web went from luxury to necessity. If it worked once, it can work again. Why do advertisers keep forgetting their own internet history? Do not forget that Jeff Bezos owns both Amazon and the Washington Post. You better believe that they are in cahoots when it comes to taking away your privacy.

    1. horse of a different color

      Re: Liar, liar, pants on fire!

      I had a look at the Washington Post link, and I got the impression it was more about how publishers can monetise user information, rather than advertisers. Not about protecting privacy at all, just about where the money ends up.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Liar, liar, pants on fire!

        They also talk about licensing the technology to other publishers. Well, how long do you think it would be before some smart persons realises that the technology works better if several publishers share the data that they have independently captured. Then, how long before that person realises that simply being the aggregator in that scenario is a business model in itself. Perhaps someone with existing experience running massive distributed web services could take on the role. Then, we're back where we started.

  16. Missing Semicolon
    Unhappy

    Asymmetric liability/costs

    The problem with on-line ads is that they are NOT THE SAME as print advertising. A print ad just adds to the weight of the paper. A billboard just make the place ugly. A TV ad just occupies time.

    But online ads are code and can cause me actual monetary loss.

    The ad industry is set up to explicitly obscure the source and liability for bad adverts, so there is no incentive for anyone to police bad actors.

    I notice Google have no solution for that, as there is money in that murky market.

    So, while I would love to enable advertising to sites I visit, to cost is too high.

  17. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Irony

    What I like in the article are the quotes from the tracker and advertiser also ran. Basically, how can you trust anyone who uses Twitter to talk about privacy?

    As for the discussion about user profiles and ads, I'd like to see more research into the whole idea of whether knowing so much about someone really makes that much of a difference when it comes to product advertising. The general assumption is that it does and this is why advertisers are prepared to pay more for it, but I'm personally not that convinced. Contextual adverts are certainly the ones I respond best to. Of course, the two approaches meet in services like Spotify and Netflix (and boy do they both love our data).

    I've thought for a while that Google has a greater understanding of personal versus aggregate data. For example, in most cities it probably has sufficient aggregate data to suggest where would be a good spot to put a hotel or a chinese restaurant, or cycle lane. I'm sure there's a great deal of trade in such data and find it strange we don't hear much about it.

    1. Mike 137 Bronze badge

      Re: Irony

      The key question has to be whether the primary benefit of cross site profiling is to the advertiser or the ad broker. I have a strong suspicion (based on extensive observation) that the advertiser is frequently quite disengaged from the actual serving of their ads - they buy a service "fire and forget" and pay the invoices as they arrive. The broker, on the other hand, obtains a huge demographic database it can use as bait to attract new advertisers. So the primary benefit is to the broker, and both the individual profiled and the advertiser become merely grist to its mill.

      Not by chance are these ad broker behemoths the valuable companies on the planet. But because nobody dare stop advertising in the cutthroat world of commerce, the risk is too great to try alternatives to the snake oil. That is indeed the epitome of irony.

  18. Tikimon Silver badge
    Devil

    Waaah, losing your revenue stream? Don't pick a slimy business model!

    All this bleating about how companies must be allowed to data mine us or they will LOSE MONEY! WAAAAH!

    Heard it all before from telemarketers. They invaded our homes at all hours on OUR dollar. When they were blocked and fined, they screamed and whined about LOSING MONEY. Well sorry you assholes, you should have picked a legit, non-invasive business model. Compare to the soulless jerks who kill whales for a living and whine about bans on their onerous practice.

    Data miners gonna lose money? EXCELLENT! Shouldn't have built your business on being a total asshole. Can't go bankrupt and die fast enough.

  19. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    even funnier

    Just today I saw an amusing example of just how much advertisers can try to target you (and get potentially confused in the process).

    I was on the Japanese-language-only site piapro.jp (a Vocaloid music site). There is no English-language version, you have to do a bit of trickery to get an account on the site if you're not currently in Japan (I'm in the US), and navigating around the site is a bit of guesswork and also eventually learning the iconography and a handful of Kanji.

    So what do I see for a bottom of the page ad? An ad for a Dunkin Donuts (presumably one closest to my ISP PoP), with the town name in English but the "buttons" in the ad in Kanji and Hiragana...

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