Why is it O.K. for Facebook to force users to watch ads?

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FacebookFacebook announced recently that it’s forcing users to watch ads even if they have ad-blockers installed in their web browsers by disabling the blocking.  

The social media giant is stirring controversy by saying that it will serve ads to Facebook.com users with ad-blockers turned on.  It’s estimated that about 20% of U.S. web browser users have added an ad-blocker to their browsers.  That’s starting to look like a lot of lost revenue.  

Take a look at the graph below which illustrates the recent rising use of Ad-blockers:

Image courtesy of PageFair and Adobe

We’re a privacy company but we think – in this case – Facebook is justified

Even with this recent announcement, there is some Facebook advertising technology people can– and still should– block, which Facebook can’t really do anything about.  The heart of what is concerning about the data that Facebook is secretly gathering about our browsing behavior is extremely confusing. It is hidden in the differences between a bunch of overly-complicated advertising technologies and terms like first-party, third-party, tracking, re-targeting, fingerprinting, etc.  

Without paying the absurd tax on your time to learn about online advertising technology, here are our key takeaways:

  • Ad-blockers are specifically designed to block all advertising and do hurt the revenues of ad-supported web sites.  Facebook should be able to show ads and to circumvent ad-blockers on Facebook.com using data collected on Facebook.com
  • Tracker blockers (like Ghostery and Blur) are designed to try and block third-party tracking (though they also end up blocking ads).  It’s not even close to perfect, but the tracker blocker ideal is sites like Facebook could advertise their own ad inventory when you are on Facebook.com but not collect and use data about your web browsing history collected about you when you visit other sites.  (e.g. hidden tracking companies following you around from site to site).  
  • Facebook is definitely guilty of being a BIG tracker of your data at other web sites and using that data – which you never agreed to explicitly – to re-target ads to you.  In fact, every time you see a Facebook Like or Login with Facebook Button on another site, they collect and use that information to re-target advertising to you and build up a profile based on your personal (supposedly private) history – again, no easy way to “opt-out”.   More information here:

FacebookTracking1At Abine, we agree that Facebook, using its own information and ad inventory, has every right to target you and every right to evade consumers ad-blocking technologies when on Facebook.com.

Addblock Plus, which is fighting a cat-and-mouse game of blocking ads on Facebook and accusing Facebook of taking “the dark side” is being self-serving, as we can see from their web site:

adblock-plus-facebook-ads

Using an ad-blocker or tracker blocker will stop Facebook from tracking you across other web sites, and make it harder for them to work with the third party advertising technologies collecting data about people in secret about their web browsing.  

Abine’s Blur, designed to add better protection for Passwords, Payments, and Privacy to all popular web browsers, actively blocks trackers (and some tracker-based ads) as part of protecting people’s privacy.

 

Get Blur for your browser or Android or iPhone here: www.abine.com

 

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