An additional shabby side of the business is the publishers, and their ability to artificially expand the advertising market.
Ever Growing Vista
Physical advertising space (bill boards, magazines, etc) is limited. There's only so many places to print an advert.
These days, all Google (or whoever) have to do is invent some other "feature" for their websites, and it simply becomes another place in which advertisers have to place adverts for fear of "not being seen". Of course, getting your business advertised on a map, in search results, etc. all costs money, and a new digital advertising vista requires extra money.
And who pays for advertising? The consumer always pays for it. An advertiser's budget is drawn from the company revenues, which come from the goods sold in the shops/online/etc, bought by you an me.
How Much Does It Cost Me?
The UK digital advertising market is about £8billion a year. It's easy to calculate what share of that you're paying every year, regardless of what tech you own, use or see. Let me see, £8 billion, approx 40 million workers in the UK, = £200 per year.
Overall advertising has gone up £5billion in the last 10 years, and is about £425 per year for every worker.
Is it Really Worth it?
Given that the sole aim of a company like Google is to increase that number even more, how long before people start noticing? You spend a few hundred quid on a phone, and it then costs you (indirectly) another £200 a year. So if Google managed to increase that to £500/year, or £1000/year, would that be OK?
Is all this tech worth one, two month's mortgage payments? How long before digital advertising accounts for a significant proportion of a family's annual budget?
We're all spending a lot on adverts that we generally don't want to see, annoys us a lot when we see them, and costs us whether or not we use anything funded through ads.
With a lot of that advertising revenue flowing out of the country to the US (well, Ireland where it's resting in an account, name of Criley), is there any macro-economic benefit from advertising at all? I don't know. But if a government decides that it's an economic menace they will have to step in and change the rules of the game. Unless the mobile network operators and ISP get really good at ad-blocking first.