Online advertisements are everywhere, and the numbers kept growing. In the modern world of internet, ads are becoming a common thing. And as common as it can be, almost every website available have at least one method of advertising.
It started when Ethan Zuckerman, one of the internet pioneers, worked on something to market content and services to others. When all method didn't work as expected, one business model did work: ads. That business model made the company Zuckerman was working with, was acquired. Zuckerman's work was later known as pop up ads.
Zuckerman apologized for the tech he created , but the ad growth is unstoppable. Online ads have grown in more than many ways, and since then, it has become the de facto model for the web because they are easy to create, and also easy to sell to investors. Despite a company didn't make a single profit from its services, if its website is growing because of the flocking audience, there is no easier and faster way to get money beside using ads.
Before, ads were just plain simple. The traditional ad business model was asking many people to spend little money to have what they want to be shown. But in the modern days of internet, the story has changed. Click through rates are not as good as they were.
Now ads are seeming to compete for attention. As a website has more and more visitors, the cost for ads for each visitor in the eye of the company behind the website is decreasing. This increases profit margin by a wide range.
Many websites, especially social networking sites like Facebook, use targeted ads. These type of ads are performing incredibly well because the ads are only shown to those that have interest in them. And for Facebook that has massive information about its users' profile and interest, targeting ads can not be easier.
Some of the information needed to provide targeted ads are: contact information, gender, friends from social networks, birthday date, uploaded photos, Facebook Likes, posts and shares, and more. If advertisers think that these information is not enough, they need to go deeper within the unseen and the unshared.
This means that internet companies need to move deeper into the world of surveillance.
By combining surveillance method with geo-targeting and data sharing, advertisers can hugely increase ads' performance. To make that happen, internet companies need to focus on data to get more stories.
Internet ads account for more than hundreds of billions of dollars from the total global advertising business. With the influence of mobile devices and social networks, advertisers can track and target people to a degree than was once seen impossible. As people spend more time on the internet, internet companies are relentlessly gathering information from them.
By monitoring people's online activities, internet companies can map their location, their work details including their income, their family and household items, hobbies, leisure activities, favorite places to eat with favorite meal and drinks, health conditions, formal and informal education, and many others that could go on to hundreds of attributes.
Several of these collected attributes that are accounted to a single person, can determine his condition and needs. This is called "segments"
To put it into practice, a segment such as "men deeply in love" are presumed to be single and shop for women related gifts. They tend to visit romantic places, dine at expensive rated restaurants, share more about happy moments, Like and comment more posts from someone in social networks, visit less work-related websites, and so forth. These information can then be taken to the next step where advertisers can bid to show them precise targeted ads. Like for example: cheap engagement rings.
Targeted advertising has advantages for consumers. It pays for many popular websites which people can enjoy free of charge. Relevant ads are probably more useful to consumers than irrelevant ones.
Most consumers on the internet have no idea how closely they are being "stalked" online. They do not know that what they do on social networks are recorded to allow companies to track them. And they have no idea, and even less concern that behind the curtain, more than a thousand companies are watching what they do.
Although companies that buy and sell data insist that they use numbers, not names, to identify individuals, it's getting easier and easier to pinpoint those people that were initially anonymous by online trackers.
Online ads benefit all parties that are included: internet companies, advertisers, publishers, and of course, the consumers. However, such information can also be used against consumers. For example, a man that is known to have a risky hobby and likes to smoke cigarettes, might find his rates for medical and insurance rise. Despite this may only happen in many developed countries, the possibilities for this to be implemented in other parts of the world is high.
People should be able to find out if they are being tracked and what information companies are holding about them, and they should be able to stop companies tracking them when they want. Many developed nations rely on the industry to regulate itself and protect people's privacy. However, transparency is not yet common. Some companies have made it clear to consumers when they want to track them, but most still don't. Or do but the information about it is buried deep inside their Terms of Service.
People need to have options. If they don't mind being tracked, they can choose to do so. But if they don't, these people needs an option to opt-out.
Since revelations of surveillance can damage a company's reputation in the eyes of consumers, advertisers that want to get their ads a bit more targeted, need to go further by themselves. Consumers have the total rights to defend their privacy, and could rebel against those that invade it. This should be appreciated.
Surveillance as a business model does work. But it isn't sustainable if you see inside the conscience of human rights.