To Block, Or Not To Block

I run some fairly wide-ranging ad-blockers on my web browser (UBlock and Privacy Badger on Firefox) in general, and on social media (Social Fixer on Facebook) specifically, and have to confess at being torn by this choice.

I’m aware that many sites are struggling for revenue and need every penny they can get in order to keep going. Even though the payouts from most ad systems are terrible (I’m looking at you, Google), that small income can make a big difference.

But when, out of desperation, sites load up their pages with more and more ads, they become unusable, and the pages take so long to load you could die from old age waiting for them. And when they finally do load, you struggle to find the actual content. (You should hear my wife swearing at recipe sites!)

And I’m not just talking blogs and small business sites here. Have you ever waited for The Weather Network to load, when all you want to do is check the current temperature? By the time you get there the season has changed! Even news sites like the CBC and BBC are slowed to a crawl by ads these days.

On top of this, most, if not all, of these ad systems come absolutely loaded with privacy-busting data-harvesting code (oh I’m looking at you again, Google!) that tries to track every single thing you do on the web and sell it to the highest bidder. This intrusion into people’s activities is now a multi-billion dollar “industry” and even has its own name–the “surveillance economy” or sometimes “surveillance capitalism.”

Caution: 24-Hour Survellance

Although I run my blockers, and do as much as I can to curtail such spying–it’s a battle that I, as an individual, can only do so much about. What we need are real limits on what information can be gathered and how it’s processed. It’s probably time that several companies (Oh hi Google, fancy seeing you here again) were broken up and had their wings clipped, and we need our governments to make these things happen because such groups are far too big for individuals to fight.

So, what do you think? Should we expect more privacy? Should we give up the fight, and say we don’t care what companies know about us? Should we lobby for spy-groups like Google and Facebook to be broken up? How do you protect yourself?

Let me know in the comments.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks Dave for this incredibly thought provoking and informative post. I hadn’t put much thought into it, but because of what you mention, I am going to look into ad blockers. I’m not comfortable with ads being shoved in my line of vision based on searches I do, it is just wrong and feels invasive.

  2. I find ad laden sites extremely annoying and most times just give up on them. When site content seems to become secondary or is invaded by pop-ups, etc . , I decline to use them. Recipe sites are some of the worse. And more worrying than annoying are the privacy issues. Even with all the privacy legislation coming out of the woodwork , it seems that real urgently needed protections are ignored, minimised in their importance. Corporate entities know way too much about our private lives. And yet, for the ordinary person, like me, how do we fight back without becoming recluses?

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