I think online advertising is a perfectly reasonable thing. It really is what keeps the internet free for us and lets us browse almost unlimitedly. If there were no profits for these websites from ads, then we could expect to be paying a lot more money from our own pockets! This is a great advantage of advertising on websites. It would also be absurd to tell a technology company that they could not advertise on their website. They can do basically offer whatever they want on their website…you can choose to go to the website or not. The fact that you are the product being sold to the companies advertising is not unethical in itself I don’t think. This is an exchange of good really. You can use the website service, for the price of being sold advertising on that website. In itself, it is a perfectly reasonable exchange.
The problem arises when the advertisers are collecting data across all platforms and forming a psychoanalysis on you. It is reasonable for a customer to assume that an advertisement comes from only the data collected on that specific website or group of websites. But even when this is used for a psychological purpose it begins to cross the line. Targeting people specifically based off of their psychological state is an invasion of privacy. It is an abuse of power where an advertising company knows how to manipulate people, and the people don’t know they are being manipulated.
Advertising based off of general trends I think is reasonable for a company to allow. Such as Amazon suggesting books based off of your choices of previously bought books. This actually helps you. I’ve seen the suggested products and realized I forgot to get something that I needed as part of the original purchase. The good part about it was that the targeted advertising remained within the realm of the website. It works well within your interests. It also doesn’t take very much psychological analysis to make links to previously bought items and potential future interests.
Much like the facebook revealing of intimate secrets, in searching for an engagement ring for my girlfriend, engagement ring ads started showing up on my facebook and other seemingly random websites I visited. I had to quickly hide my phone or computer when I was with her because these ads appeared when we were together. Now how much would that suck if she asked me if I was looking for a ring? She knows that ads are targeted based off of other web searches, so there wouldn’t be much I could say. What a buzz kill that would be to ruin the surprise.
Because of things like this, I use ad blocker. I wish it could block more ads, but I think I’d have to pay for a better version in order to do so. While reading the articles, I did find it quite interesting that ad blocking could be taking away from the websites we love. I am now conflicted as to whether I should be using it or not. Like I said before, it is a reasonable exchange to use a website for free, and the only cost it would be is to see ads on it. We’ll see what I end up deciding as time goes on.