Targeted Online: How Big Tech’s business model sells your deepest secrets for profit
Surveillance-based advertising which is currently the business model used by Google, Facebook and many others is harmful to people and to society as a whole because it encourages the spread of disinformation. It's also bad for the media who lose control of their ad space and suffer from decreasing revenue as a result.
Advertising has become one of the biggest revenue sources for many online services, including publishers and journalists. However with the appearance of “personalised ads”, the digital ad industry has become increasingly controlled by data and tech corporations rather than media companies and content creators.
The “Targeted Online: An industry broken by design and by default” publication launched by European Digital Rights today, describes just how the ad tech business model works, how it hurts people and what must be done to counter this hostile takeover.
Today, digital advertising is mostly based on fine-grained personal profiles collected and sold by tech companies and data brokers. These companies have established themselves as middlemen between publishers and advertisers. Many publishers must rely on tech giants to deliver ads on their own digital domains and to their own audiences.
According to the Global Disinformation Index, at least $235 million in revenue is generated annually from ads which run on extremist and disinformation websites. Some of the online advertisers show advertising to people that have been categorised as survivors of incest, rape and sexual abuse, people with mental health issues, impotence or infertility. Discrimination in online advertising can exclude, target, misclassify and blacklist marginalised people. Finally, the data amassed by the online tracking industry has been used by law enforcement to track down and arrest undocumented migrants and go after religious minorities.
“Surveillance-based advertising which is currently the business model used by Google, Facebook and many others is harmful to people and to society as a whole because it encourages the spread of disinformation. It’s also bad for the media who lose control of their ad space and suffer from decreasing revenue as a result.”
Jan Penfrat, Senior Policy Advisor
Big Tech’s current business model that is reliant on surveillance is harming people and journalism at a time when levels of misinformation and polarisation are at an all-time high. Several actors, including the EDPS, the European Parliament, and civil society organisations, demand phasing out targeted advertising, based on pervasive tracking, as the only realistic means to protect people and bring accountability to the ad tech industry.
As our new publication “Targeted Online: An industry broken by design and by default” and countless studies show, the online tracking industry is fundamentally broken. By drastically changing the way surveillance advertising works, Europe can once again be at the forefront of digital policies and nurture a people-centred internet.
Find the presentations from our speakers at EDRi’s Press Briefing event “How the Big Tech business model AKA #AdTech hurts journalism” here and here. The recording of the presentations portion of the event can be found here.