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AdTech Sucks (lockwood.dev)
285 points by tomlockwood 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 154 comments



Is there a "pull" rather push aspect to advertisement? Sort of a trade-show equivalent of digital advertisement?

Issues with pushing ads down my throat are as follows:

1. I don't want to buy another Sony XM3 headphones. I just fucking bought them and I am seeing more ads of the same thing.

2. Even if I saw ads for relevant accessories, say, I bought an iPhone and I am seeing ads for phone cases; I don't want to see them when I am browsing Instagram or a lecture video on YT about how to meditate.

3. Say the timing is right and the ad is relevant, I still am repulsed by advertisers. I don't like salesmen. I find them sleezy and annoying. It is like walking into Radioshack and a platoon of salesmen are trying to sell you Sprint cell phone and I am here to buy a goddamn electrolytic capacitor.

However, when I am searching for a pressure cooker, it would be great to go to a centralized repository of ads and look through who markets this sort of thing the best and may be have some objective reviews along with it. May be have a standardized ad template and guidelines so the marketing dickheads don't go overboard with flashing lights and sparkles. Have a standardized page full of pressure cooker ads, let them fight over my business in a level playing field. No psychological tricks, no sleezy techniques, I want to see increased competition based on value they provide to consumers. Not weak anti-competitive deceitful marketing.

I love going to trade-shows. They're all salesmen but there is something about serendipitous discovery of new stuff, seeing things that you may not need immediately but it goes in the back of your mind and you remember it at some obscure situation (especially in hardware engineering, I run a lab that serves 50 engineers). Most importantly, I am in the mindset when I visit a trade-show. That mindset is different than when I am desperately looking for a tire shop nearby to fix my flat tire.

Fuck advertisement. It is the worst thing modern society is plagued with.

We need yellow pages, not 60 second interruptions during a cooking show. YC folks are reading this - there is a huge gap for a "pull" advertisement model. AdTech guys can still collect data and be assholes about it, but at least you won't be bothering me when I need not.


It used to be that when you looked at kiteboarding forums or blogs you would see kiteboarding or travel ads. No tracking of individuals needed. I think that’s what you are talking about.

Now you see ads for blenders because you bought one or looked at one last week. Ads are not context sensitive anymore.

I would have no problem if HN made some money with advertising for dev tools. It makes sense. Personalized ads are creepy and annoying.


HN does have a section for job ads [1], which are exempt from the usual voting mechanism and don't stay on the front page for long. I think that's a good compromise.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/jobs


They are still context sensitive, just the retargeting guy is bidding higher so that is what is showing.


I don’t know much about ads but that’s something I have noticed. When online ads started they are actually sometimes useful to me because of context. Now they are totally useless to me. They are just noise.


On the plus side, this means that a website operator of a low-profit topic can still earn a living.

When I was blogging a decade ago I would write almost exclusively about finance because it paid the best. With this system, I could write about other topics and still capture some of that finance-context revenue.


> However, when I am searching for a pressure cooker, it would be great to go to a centralized repository of ads and look through who markets this sort of thing the best and may be have some objective reviews along with it.

The Wirecutter used to be pretty good for this, until the NYT bought it. It's still OK now, but it feels like that the pool of products being reviewed in each category is smaller than it once was. The whole site is basically a giant ad/referral scheme, but as long as you're aware of that then it's not bad as a starting point for research.

I used to just do a search on Amazon and start from there. Now it's 1 or 2 big brands followed by 20 pages of the same identical Chinese clone product with names like "Wootoo" and "Yungoo".


Agree, you can't trust reviews anymore. 10 years ago I would go on Amazon and I can trust a 5 star product. Now a days, any product is between 4 and 5 stars. The dynamic range literally is 4.0, 4.5, 5.0.

Look at Japanese restaurant review site called Tabelog. Anything above 3 is good. 3.5 is excelltent. 4.0 is rare, probably expensive. 4.5 is michelin star category, mostly sushi places. I've never seen a 5.0 rated restaurant on Tabelog.


Yep it has been incredibly difficult to buy anything of quality from Amazon for the past 2-3 years at least. I will likely cancel my Prime membership this year, it’s just no longer worth it.


My site Office Snapshots (https://officesnapshots.com) might be of interest to you.

We publish office design projects and the advertising is based on the content which usually ends up being office furniture, products, and services. We also sell and host our own advertising to make sure they are high quality and that they load quickly.

Your digital trade show note is interesting too as we work with furniture manufacturers who can have a digital presence on the site to highlight their products.

Here is a popular phone booth company's page for reference: https://officesnapshots.com/brands/framery/


One thing you might want to think about: What role do the businesses that benefit from advertising revenue play. You're looking at advertising from the perspective of advertisers pushing themselves into your life, but have you asked yourself how they got that billboard onto the football stadium, that video in front of your favorite show, that page in your newspaper (whether digital or print).

> Fuck advertisement. It is the worst thing modern society is plagued with.

Advertisement is literally as old as civilization.


"What role do the businesses that benefit from advertising revenue play" - They want to lure you into buying their products, at times by any means possible. Back in the day when advertisement was word of mouth and perhaps newspaper ads, the playing field included opinions of the people - it fostered increased quality of products because you wouldn't recommend a shit quality product to your friend.

In modern society, we have INSANE...I mean insane amount of deceit, psychological tricks, store smells, layout optimization, there is a huge industry built around deceiving people and not playing by level rules. Instead of focusing on quality, businesses are spending money on marketing.

> Advertisement is literally as old as civilization.

or rather evolved into a monstrous industry worth billions of dollars if not trillion+ dollars. You didn't have Aztec farmers shot by an arrow every 5 mins that had a note attached to it "BUY THIS NEW FUCKING PLOUGH" in ancient times.


You're still focusing on advertisers (I didn't make this clear enough). Think about the people owning the football stadium, the tv channel, the newspaper (they're likely advertisers themselves, but let's pretend for a moment they aren't).


There are invasive ads and less invasive ads. I am sure some "ads" are actually just to click-inflate a site.

Thinking of newspapers for example the problem is that the dynamics are very complex.

A few years ago, many sites started splitting in maybe dozens of weirdly specific topics just to artificially inflate the number of readers (if one user visit ten site it can be counted as 10 users) or even just buying click.

A billboard owner can do similar trick, but usually on a smaller scale.


Without advertising, these people would be forced to implement a profitable monetization strategy, or they would fail. That's how capitalism and the free market is supposed to work.

If you're worried about the well-being of these people or believe their service is a public good that should exist regardless of profitability on the market, you should allocate public funding for them.


> That's how capitalism and the free market is supposed to work.

It's wrong to talk about how a market is "supposed to work" because markets aren't a Platonic ideal; they're how people get together and deal with scarcity in aggregate. Some markets can be highly competitive, some are monopolies or monopsonies, some are more or less regulated, and so on.

Capitalism is an ideology so it has a way it's supposed to work, but I think they'd broadly agree that banning a category of volunatry transactions is not capitalist.

> Without advertising, these people would be forced to implement a profitable monetization strategy, or they would fail.

Very true, if the government intervened, businesses would be forced to work around it. That may wind up being worse than what you started with. If ads weren't allowed, you'd probably have more people recruited to do direct sales, for instance.

More likely, though, they would lobby the government and point out the massive human cost of large numbers of businesses failing.


Advertising allows those who have fleeting excess brain-seconds of attention to convert it into non-ephemeral money.

People give away their brain-seconds of attention based on interest, and the interest-providers are profiting on the difference in interestingness between advertisements and their own content. If they maintain interestingness above the boredom threshold, they can dilute their product with ads and pocket the difference.

If the advertisements were interesting in themselves, the advertisers wouldn't need to pay to get views.

Ad-tech is currently trying to shave ever closer to the boredom threshold. But people who value their own time are trying to maximize their interest-per-brain-second ratios. So they block ads, or multiplex their attention so they can switch to a different interesting thing while an ad is pre-empting another interesting thing.

So ad-tech should instead be focusing on making exposure to and information about the product on the market more interesting and useful.

Nothing stands out in my mind more as an example of doing things not just wrongly, but as the perfect antipode of correct, than the network-dependent insert-ad-here spots currently on DirecTV Now streaming video channels, that is literally nothing more than three static images paired with LOUDNESS-ENHANCED boring annoying synthetic music. It's the same ad, in every commercial break, on every channel, and it was boring and annoying to begin with. It only gets more boring and annoying with every repetition. It eventually generates antipathy in the viewer, toward the advertised products AND the advertiser. The natural reaction, of course, is to hit the mute button and switch to another attention sink until interesting content returns, or long-term to cancel DirecTV Now and switch to something with fewer or less-intrusive ads, or no ads at all.

The attention-reseller has to be aware that giving up control to someone else can possibly lead to a hostile advertiser that pushes negative-interest, such as audio of multiple babies screaming, over a video of Adolf Hitler shoveling kittens into a sausage grinder, or perhaps something else with less hyperbole. If the reseller cannot establish a minimum standard of interestingness, they risk a rogue advertiser killing off their audience. Again, the answer is more interesting ads, tailored to the channel audience--and not the individual viewer, because that's creepy and intrusive, which is anti-interesting.

In short, the advertisers are being too lazy, and too greedy. Pay the content creators to advertise the products themselves, in a way that they know will be above the boredom-threshold for their audience. Stop trying to figure out how to match prepackaged ads--that the attention-resellers have never had the chance to review--to audience members using tracking, profiling, and spyware.


Advertisement is literally as old as civilization.

Modern advertising is as old as Edward Bernays and the 1920s - https://intercontinentalcry.org/the-century-of-the-self-happ... and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnPmg0R1M04 [The Century of the Self - Part 1: "Happiness Machines" documentary]


> One thing you might want to think about: What role do the businesses that benefit from advertising revenue play. You're looking at advertising from the perspective of advertisers pushing themselves into your life, but have you asked yourself how they got that billboard onto the football stadium, that video in front of your favorite show, that page in your newspaper (whether digital or print).

That money comes out of the pocket of customers. Without advertising, products would be cheaper because their producers would not have to spend money on adverts.

> Advertisement is literally as old as civilization.

So? That doesn't make it any less despicable.


> Without advertising, products would be cheaper because their producers would not have to spend money on adverts.

At the beginning the money comes from the product owner, who without any visibility will not have (as many) costumers


If people need a product, they will find it. If they want to know about more products they might find useful, they will inform themselves — hopefully using a neutral source whose interests are aligned with theirs. Not from an advertiser which is interested in making them buy whatever garbage their customer wants to sell. Which does not educate and inform customers, enabling to make good decisions, but to manipulate them.


Oddly enough, PETA’s website does a great job with this. They have a whole section of their site that’s just paid listings of vegan products. It’s actually fun to browse; it feels like you’re in a shop and seeing new things you hadn’t considered (like vegan travel packages or a cork briefcase). I felt very strange that I was enjoying looking at ads.


> "However, when I am searching for a pressure cooker, it would be great to go to a centralized repository of ads and look through who markets this sort of thing the best and may be have some objective reviews along with it..."

Isn't this similar to what Amazon Marketplace does? Of course, they do allow advertisers to promote their stuff, but apart from a top few sponsored content, rest all are ranked by reviews (or so they say).


Funnily enough this kind of advertising has an adverse effect on me: Showcasing your product as sponsored content at the top of the search results at Amazon, as well as Google or the App Store, suggests that this is a subpar product that needs to pay to be relevant. I’m not sure how common this attitude is, but by now I subconsciously ignore these ads.

Of course there are also brands and products I know and like, which appear in these ads, but I see them as an exception, as a shining pearl in a sea of mediocrity, and continue to regard sponsored content as a strong indicator for lacking quality.


> I don't want to buy another Sony XM3 headphones. I just fucking bought them and I am seeing more ads of the same thing.

On that note: https://twitter.com/kibblesmith/status/724817086309142529


> 1. I don't want to buy another Sony XM3 headphones. I just fucking bought them and I am seeing more ads of the same thing.

To be a devil's advocate, doesn't that mean that advertisers should get MORE of your personal data, so they know every product you own and won't suggest you buy something you already have?

Whenever you see a bad ad, it means whatever privacy precautions you're taking are working. The advertiser would love to not spend money advertising their thingie to someone that already has it. But you didn't let them. That sounds like a success to me.


That's kind of true but that's only because adtech is siloed. Let's say you're identified by Facebook as having an interest in the Sony headphones. User clicks an ad and heads over to Amazon to purchase. The purchase is made and Amazon knows the conversion happened but Facebook does not.

Facebook does purchase credit card usage information but it's not nearly as perfect as having a conversion pixel on the site.

Future laws should really focus on cross-site / app tracking and the legality of purchasing third-party data.


A big part of the article is about how all the middle men want to spend more money, not less. For all the "tech" in AdTech, it's surprising how much gets canceled because it increased efficiency and made revenue go down. Even efforts to align incentives end to end like CPA (cost per action/conversion) don't do well for the same reasons.


There's a DFW area startup I once interviewed for called iuzeit (not affiliated) that is trying to solve some of the problems of consumer items and reviews. I am unaware of whether they could solve your pressure cooker conundrum, but I know they intend to increase the breadth of the type of items they cover.


The only thing I know of that somewhat resembles what you describe is https://thewirecutter.com/


This is what VRM is supposed to be.

https://blogs.harvard.edu/vrm/


Like it or not, there is a large swath of people (engineers, designers, workers, etc, etc) whose jobs would simply go away if masses of people didn't buy useless stuff they didn't want or need and couldn't afford. We all work for someone, and we all feed this system in some way or another. The only way to escape this is to go off the grid completely.

And so, I think that advertising is not the root cause, its consumerism, which has been anointed as this engine that drives positive economic growth under capitalism. And like any other macroeconomic theory it falls in this contradicting category of 'thats bullshit' and 'that totally makes sense'. "Studies show X" whoop-de-doo. Advertising simply enables consumerism, and the people who you're calling dickheads actually enable a TON of software developers to even have jobs. Where is all the tech we're building being used? To build websites to sell stuff. To build databases to store all this info, to build entertainment platforms to sell you more stuff, to build logistic systems to organize this useless selling of stuff, etc, etc. Unless you're somehow connected with selling things or otherwise generating economic activity, why would anyone pay you to build it?


I'm not sure that line of argument holds up terribly well; people working in an industry I consider immoral aren't really my primary concern. How would you respond to an analogous argument like "landmines are made by people in factories - if we stopped making landmines, all those poor people would lose their jobs, is that what you want?" (side note, the answer to that hypothetical is also 'yes').


I am talking about convincing a consumer to buy something like a headphone or a smartphone or a laptop that they don't need... not about selling weapons to kill people. Personally, I have never seen an online ad for a landmine.

Edit: Sorta off topic, but our little conversation reminded me of a quote from Lord Of War.

>Yuri Orlov : I don't want people dead, Agent Valentine. I don't put a gun to anybody's head and make them shoot. But shooting is better for business. But, I prefer people to fire my guns and miss. Just as long as they are firing. Can I go now?


It sounds like you are describing a shopping mall to me.


Wasn't this the idea behind Froogle?


Could not agree more. The pull approach of ad would be great.

- much less CO2 production

- much less chance of malware / virus spreading

- much higher accuracy

- the web would be usable again without ad filters


How would this reduce CO2 production?


Going to takes some stabs into the dark:

Less people pulling ads = less demand on ad servers = less energy consumption?

Less people pulling ads = less people consuming crappy products = less products being manufactured in poluty factories?


> I’d love for data to be seen as a liability - something audited and discarded often to minimise risk.

Perhaps it's just the industries I've worked in, which tend to be highly regulated, but I have such a hard time seeing why this idea isn't more intuitive to people. Every single scrap of sensitive information you have laying around is something that has the potential to fuel a very expensive, possibly even existential, crisis for your company.

Even for the non-sensitive stuff, keeping it around "just in case" increases the risk that somebody who has taken a couple classes in how to use R or Pandas and is still a bit starry-eyed about Big Data starts making questionable business decisions based on unskeptical interpretations of biased results drawn from convenience-sampled data of uncertain provenance.

The default shouldn't be collecting and warehousing everything, the default should be, "when in doubt, throw it out."


Author here. Yeah, and to expand on the idea of liability, I also additionally mean the possibility of a financial liability. If we were to say, charge per month for a retained customer date of birth, you'd see business analysts internally constantly asking why the data needed to be stored so long, or whether just age could be stored, or something. If the price was high enough, the problem would sort of just... go away.

Obviously much smarter people than me would need to figure out those regulations though.


On the liability side the GDPR was already good progress


I mean, I'd like for that to be true, but look at Equifax. They leaked nearly every critical detail about nearly every single working American. Not only are they still alive, their stock is up ~130% since December and is getting back to where they were before the leak was exposed (~$140)[0]

Leaking data has little consequences.

[0] https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/EFX/


Surely there are many reasons to not hoard everything, but I find this argument strange. If you're in a business that is making bad decisions due to wrong analysis of data, it seems like there should be more nuanced and pertinent ways to tackle this then just throwing it out, which also prevents good analysis.


Well, some of the issue there is that it's really hard to get a good analysis out of bad or unsuitable data. Garbage in, garbage out.

Generally it's better to put the horse in front of the cart: Figure out what kinds of questions you want to be answering, and then design a way to collect the data you need to answer those questions.

This isn't far off from the lesson that medical science somewhat recently had to learn the hard way, about how just dragnet collecting heaps data and then figuring out what to do with it after the fact will yield far more incorrect conclusions than correct ones.


> potential to fuel a very expensive, possibly even existential, crisis for your company.

In terms of security breaches, this maybe SHOULD be true, but isn't.

In terms of bad feature development, it's a little melodramatic. I'm not saying you can't misinterpret something so bad it causes something catastrophic, just that it's more likely to be a couple percent drop in some subset of traffic for some cohort. Not the worst thing.

> The default shouldn't be collecting and warehousing everything, the default should be, "when in doubt, throw it out."

We have a lot of things where I work that I wish we were collecting now, not because we could use it now, but because we could use it later. And you can't go back in time and get it (usually).

Throwing data away is easy.

I wish I could have the foresight, the prescience to only store what I know I'll need.


From the article - "If you’ve been on the internet for any amount of time, you’ve probably seen very poorly targeted advertising. In my experience, I see a lot of car ads. I don’t own a car".

One can argue that advertising cars to person without one make some sense.

At least it's better then advertising vacuum cleaners to person who bought one on amazon 1 week ago.


I'll give you a better example - I'm an English speaking guy consuming regular US content. I travel quite often and when I'm in non-english speaking places like Thailand, I see ads on Youtube(mobile) purely in Thai language.

I use Google products extensively and Google most definitely knows I don't speak Thai. I mean it's almost ridiculous the number of Thai ads I've seen on Youtube. For a company that sophisticated with AdTech, I'm shocked how bad they are with this.

Are they doing this on purpose just to sell more ads? The companies spending the money to show me those videos are practically throwing money down the drain if I don't even understand them.


YouTube provides the platform, while ad buyers select the targets. Sounds like someone picked "people in Thailand" without filtering by native/preferred language. https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2454017?hl=en

Edit: to clarify, even though Google makes targeting pretty easy, you still have to know what you're doing to set up a good ad campaign. Lots of businesses don't realize that ad buying actually requires some knowledge to avoid wasting money, so they just get the in-house "power user" to take care of it.


Who the actual fuck buys these ads? Ad people: are you reading hn right now? Google is screwing you out of your money, big time

We're on vacation in northern italy. Why did my 2 year old daughter just get served two consecutive ads, one for a razor blade, in german, and one for the Italian Amazon website; all while watching Dutch songs for toddlers on YouTube?

She sure as hell doesnt speak german or italian, and I don't think she needs a razor....


Author here. I wish I'd thought of your example before I wrote the article :D

And I think my opinion on that is probably obvious, but I think the simplest answer is that Google simply doesn't care about mistargeting ads to a consumer who wouldn't conceivably click on them. They gain no benefit from reducing an advertisers spend that way.


Another aspect of the Thai example is that the target is over constrained. The user is from the US, knows English, doesn't know Thai, is temporary located in Thailand, age 30 to 35, likes country music, and of ethnic decent (just example data). Advertisers can't really customize their offer to that overly constrained individual and the algorithm falls through to the remnant ad inventory. On the sell side, such a constrained target is a small market and not worth the effort to buy placement. If one runs unlock orig or pi-hole regularly, ads you do get out of home on your phone will start to be less targeted to you.

To the larger point of pull vs. push, I would embrace such a market place. Google shopping sort of does this. Good article. Thank you.


There's also the little problem where when your eyeballs are up for auction, the ones putting in bids don't have any relevant inventory targeting you so all the network can do nothing is default to whatever fallback ads they have, which are usually low cost brand building ones. That's where all the almost-porn and dating ones pop up because they're desperate for eyeballs of any kind.


The cars example is also not great because cars are one of those things that are advertised to everybody. Beer, laundry detergent, insurance, and movies are other examples like that. Basically, the kind of ads you see during a Sunday afternoon football game.


This is exactly my experience. Go to Thailand, see ads in Thai. Go to France, see ads in French. Go to Indonesia, see ads in Indonesian.

Google has paid thousands of engineers billions of dollars over 20 years and somehow they have failed on this very simple optimisation!


The advertisers you see have specified location but not language.


They're just optimizing for selling ad space instead of your satisfaction with the ads. You're just a pair of eyeballs to them, if even that.


I'd be willing to advertise a culture string like "en-US" if I thought adtech would respect it, and not try to override it or profile me further.


Even as English speaking person in an English speaking country, I get non-English ads on Google properties. It's astonishing how bad Google's ad targeting is sometimes.


Consumer behavior is not always intuitive.

Even with vacuum cleaners, you're a magnitude more likely to purchase one again if you've purchased one in the past. From there it's just a math equation for a vacuum seller involving their cost per acquisition and re-targeting spend.

People credit adtech for knowing everything about them, but it's really not as smart or all-knowing as some give it credit for.


They also show car ads to people to make you think someone that owns a particular car is cool and good. You need to show ads to people that don't buy for that. However, the internet ad system is famously metric focused on, e.g. cost per conversion, so it's hard to say which mixture of evil and incompetent they are.


just to play the devil's advocate: perhaps they knew that if you owned a thing, you're more likely to buy the thing when time comes to replace it. The more advertising you see, the more your mind remembers the brand and product.


> Why, oh why, would a company built on ad revenue want to reduce ad spend? > These companies are perfectly positioned to make ads more efficient - and they have absolutely no reason to do so.

The question is not really asking about reducing ad spend, it's asking about reducing advertiser costs per outcome. It's pretty obvious that if you decrease costs per outcome, return on ad spend will rise, and advertisers will spend more. In fact, more advertisers will want to get in on the game (as costs decrease, ads become profitable for more and more advertisers), and this pushes costs up. This eventually creates an equilibrium, but even at that point, it is still the case that decreasing costs increases revenues for ad networks.

Attribution is a really, really hard problem. Ideally you want to do a Lift test, and ideally you want to do it across all your ad spend channels. To do this, you still need the attribution mechanisms ("tracking" in the article).

So I don't find the article coherent. It points out deficiencies in the system (which there are many), it falsely claims that big players have no incentive to improve, and it makes it sounds like all these advertisers are just burning their money. It makes it sound like pervasive tracking is a problem, which it might be for other reasons (privacy, unintended consequences), but certainly is not making ad tech worse.


Author here. I think your response only holds true if both the market acts rationally (which isn't the case if people are optimizing-for-resume), and the benefit from claiming more conversions isn't as low hanging as other "efficiency" gains.

The "attribution mechanisms" you mention are precisely one of the drivers for the pervasive data collection that is in AdTech.


The idea that ad targeting sucks because ad networks have no incentive to improve it is extremely dubious.

Google and Facebook have an incentive to use up advertisers' budgets. But they also have an incentive to keep advertisers happy by providing good returns so that they will keep spending / increase spending in the long run. Advertisers are not always perfectly rational, but I don't think they're as dumb as the article makes them out to be.

The simpler explanation for poor ad targeting is the bidding component. If it was the case that you were shown whichever ad had the highest predicted CTR, I'm pretty sure you'd be seeing some damn relevant ads. But instead you're seeing whichever ad has the highest (bid per click * ctr). Or worse, advertisers can also bid per impression, in which case there might be no relevancy component at all.

My guess is the car ads on YouTube mentioned in the article are that last case. Both of those components (YouTube and car companies) are notable for skewing towards "brand" advertising rather than "performance" advertising. They're not trying to get you to buy a car right then. They're trying to get you to feel good about their company in the long run so that five years from now you're more likely to buy their car.


Yeah, this is why the whole ad industry is moving to automated bidding which gives a bidder more rooms to improve. Clicks maybe a relevant proxy for the performance but still the most important metric is ROI which cannot be accurately predicted at the moment of bidding.

Sadly, there's a huge conflict of interest between user privacy and relevant ads targeting here; we currently cannot accurately measure ads performance even with the current privacy-invasive practices and this will get even worse without them.

This is why I think user-tracking needs to be standardized in a more explicit way; more accurate and reliable tracking can significantly improve ads relevance while it can give some level of user control and transparency by default. Of course, I'm 100% sure that this won't come anytime soon.


Might you or someone else mind explaining how this "bidding component" works? I'm not familiar with it or with the specific bidding models at work - "bid per click * ctr" etc?


Advertisers go to an ad network and configure their campaign with: "I want to show X to users who are Y or are on a site about Y, and I'm willing to pay Z for it".

X is just the content of the ad and is usually entirely advertiser-defined. Some ad networks will allow you to do some fancy stuff to help determine the best phrasing or arrangement or whatever of your ad.

Z can be in dollars per impression, per click, or per conversion. An impression is one person being shown an ad one time. A click is a person clicking an ad. And a conversion is advertiser-defined but is usually someone buying the product being advertised. Bidding per click is the most common.

Then when a user loads a page with an ad on it, the ad network finds all campaigns that are eligible - meeting the criteria defined in Y. It then runs an "auction". It has to calculate which eligible advertiser is willing to pay the most for that potential impression. But not all advertisers are bidding per impression, so some prediction comes into play. If an advertiser bid per click, then the expected amount they will pay is the probability the user will click multiplied by the price if they do click. Their probability of clicking is often called CTR which stands for "click-through-rate" so that's where the bid * CTR comes from. Usually an ML model takes what is known about the user, the ad, and the page, and predicts CTR. Similarly for conversion-based bids, it's bid * CTR * CVR, where CVR is "conversion rate". Whichever ad comes out with the highest result of this calculation is shown.


Thanks for the clear and thorough explanation. The parent comment makes good sense now.

One follow up question - is the "bid per impression" sort of the campaign of last resort then? In other words its the cheapest type of campaign for an advertiser to run as well as the least profitable for the ad network?

Cheers


I think bidding tends to just be about what the advertiser cares most about. If they are a "brand" advertiser (Coca-Cola is the canonical example) they might bid per impression since they're not really looking for clicks, and they have some idea of how much an impression is worth to them. Compared to say some app where they want installs and so might bid per conversion.

As for the network, it's also not as clear what's profitable. Bidding per click or conversion probably gives them more opportunity to do well with good targeting. But high per-impression bids are also useful for the users the network knows very little about.


+1 with that.

Having worked for an ad network: it doesn't matter how good your recommendation algorithms are if all you have in your ad campaign pool is shitty diet and car ads.


There is an alternate explanation that doesn't rely on advertiser stupidity. Most advertisers are statistically unable to estimate the profitability of their campaigns, because ads generally exert weak effects in very noisy environments. There is some high quality evidence supporting that, e.g. https://academic.oup.com/qje/article/130/4/1941/1914592

Nota bene, weak effects does not mean ads are necessarily profitable. Profitability depends on many factors including margin, retention, ad cost, etc.


AdTech is wonderful, from a technical perspective. The standards are rich while the ecosystem is rife with opportunity.

If you are a developer in AdTech, you will NEVER hear about interaction, or see contract, with most of the companies listed...other than a handful (maybe FB, maybe Yahoo, maybe Instagram). I've worked for Experian (the US Company) and talking about them in the AdTech space is the same as talking about HN in the cooking recipe space. There's a tiny bit of overlap, but it's largely pointing to shoehorned third parties because that isn't something Experian's existing infrastructure performs.

AdTech is fun, it pays well, and you get to be at the ground level of these moral compass debates. I have refused some pieces of work and AdTech is tolerant to negotiating concerns. I think most developers would benefit from experience in AdTech, even if it's just a short time.


I worked in adtech for a bit and thought the tech was really subpar. The engineer’s goal is try and find edge cases where the privacy controls of the OS / browser have gaps so you can better target and serve more ads. The ads themselves are garbage. Very underwhelming experience. Also it’s a race to the bottom. No VC’s want to invest in adtech anymore given that old tech has monopolized it and regulations are coming. No career path. Stay away.


> you get to be at the ground level of these moral compass debates

Is this a euphemism for "test your moral fibre"? I had a similar experience with a company that later turned patent-troll - not sure I'd wish that on anyone (high stress, not rewarding).


>you get to be at the ground level of these moral compass debates.

That's the most generous way of phrasing it that I've ever heard... ;)


I worked at a startup in the intersection of social media and advertising, and the tech was indeed quite interesting. I built the core of a system that ended up storing hundreds of millions of records, with 24/7 data ingestion of tens of thousands of records per second. This was scale that I had never worked with before, and I learned a lot.

At the point in time I joined that company, I was explicitly looking for a job with interesting technical challenges. However, over the course of a couple of years, the tech mattered less and less, and the human component mattered more and more. I quit the job to get out of the industry.

I'm still not sure how to feel about my tenure there. I grew as an engineer and team lead, but I question if I made the world a little worse by helping companies improve their targeting abilities in social media.


Author here. The companies listed are by no means meant to be an exhaustive list, just illustrative examples. As long as Experian buys and sells consumer data (and in the Australian market, mosaic segments are often used and widely known) they'll be relevant to the point. I could rattle off a good two dozen names of AdTech companies, or companies making AdTech plays as a minor element of their business (like gosh dang adobe lol) and not even scratch the surface of the industry.


Fun, pays well, empowers the powerful, amplifies our biases, harms our society, makes life worse for the general populace


"""The systemic issue occurs because marketers and AdTech companies unreflectively increase surveillance and data collection in the hopes of increasing media attribution. Even the most trivial data point, the most granular site visit or location data, stored on a person-by-person basis, could conceivably be used to demonstrate that a customer may have come into contact with one of your campaigns."""

I'm genuinely intrigued by AdTech. It exists, but no one likes it -- i.e. before internet ads --> TiVo, internet ads --> ad blockers. I understand it can attract talent due to profits and the engineering + data problems, but is that the main attraction for developers? If you worked in adTech, what attracted you to it? Is there a hope you could make more ethical or privacy aware or (<insert positive idea here>) ad tech systems?

Does adTech even work? Is there an active campaign somewhere / grassroots movement to "boycott" recruitment to ad tech companies?

(Just trying to get a better understanding here, ad tech has become symbiotic with the current state of the internet, so I would like to better understand it.)


Author here.

I was attracted by the money, but also the exciting technical challenges. AdTech had all the largest datasets! At the time I entered the industry I wasn't really thinking about the ethical concerns. I just didn't think those issues would bother me as much as they ended up bothering me.


Thank you for sharing your perspective and authoring the article. Is there growing sentiment like yours amongst colleagues and peers in ad tech?


One more datapoint here if you care.

The industry is filled with hugely interesting technical challenges even if you're not at FAANG scale. Trivial things like building a cost efficient delivery infrastructure to reducing the number of steps between receiving that first page load to ad delivery and then on to analytics. A lot of it is just math and it's fun when you structure your challenges that way. It's like inverse Pinky and the Brain everyday. We're not scheming to erode everyone's privacy, we're just lab rats looking for the shortest route from one end of the maze to the other.

I also left after a few years because all that maze running got boring eventually and I decided I'd like something with a little bit more meaning. Or, from another point of view, those years eroding everyone's privacy has enabled me to climb high enough up on Maslow's pyramid such that I now have the comfort to worry about self actualisation.

edit:

There were a few people that totally drank the kool aid, and believed that what we were doing was enabling people to gain a livelihood by running a popular website. Usually the really young ones or those at management level.

Those from a developed country were mostly interested in the technical problems and improving their engineering skills.

Those from developing countries were most definitely in it for the money.


I'm not sure since I've been out for a couple years, but at the time I'd often have conversations with marketers where I'd come away wondering how they could be so oblivious to the ethical concerns in what they were asking for. I do think as time goes on, more and more people are becoming aware of the issues, but I see that uniformly across society rather than in tech.


> I'd come away wondering how they could be so oblivious to the ethical concerns in what they were asking for

Like Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."


I'm not sure that's what's at play here. Marketers could easily be aware of the ethical concerns and simply disregard them. Their salary doesn't depend at all on their ignorance of the ethical issues involved.

More likely, at the risk of overgeneralizing, I suspect a lot of the people going into adtech aren't really the philosophical-type (I think those probably tend to avoid marketing in general), a lot of them are young, and probably excited just to get a job offer in such a well-paying, high-profile industry.


I think criddell is right. I think the amount of money makes people gloss over some of the ethics, as cynical as that probably sounds. I didn't say it in the article specifically because of it sounding so cynical (even though the article is very cynical).

I think you're right, that a lot of the people going into AdTech, and just marketing in general, aren't philosophical. But, you saying that made me chuckle, because I have a BA in Philosophy, and no computing qualification.


A lot of the people I work with are looking for cheap wins. So they bend the rules and ignore ethics. Many retailers for example are data rich on the aggregate level. And could very likely achieve great results without trying to spearfish customers further. But the analytics insights required to do that take time and work. And marketers don’t like to do that. So they’d rather “enrich” crm data with Experian or some other service. When really they can’t handle they data they have and adding to it will just make it worse.


I also worked in Ad Tech - outside of a major tech area, it was the biggest, fastest growing tech employer around.

The pay was only average for the area, but the company clearly had money and was experiencing rapid growth which is always exciting.

As you mention, massive data sets, tens of billions of HTTP requests per day, etc, are simply not challenges you get outside of FAANG, so there was a lot of interesting work.

The really shady stuff only came to light once you'd worked there a while, and realised the entire industry is basically built on fraud and money laundering with almost nobody incentivised to stop it.


It's not often one can claim to have saved the company tens of thousands of dollars in operating costs each month just by tweaking a few AWS settings.

I definitely miss being able to work on such a large volume of data but at least I don't have to worry about PagerDuty anymore.


> tens of billions of HTTP requests per day

Could you elaborate? Seems very high, even for ad impressions.


rtb bid request volume can easily go 1m/sec, this is not impressions, but offers to buy for an impression.


Makes sense, thanks.


I worked in adTech. The company I worked for did not collect personal or demographic data, and we did not care about users' cookies, so I did not feel too conflicted from the ethical perspective, but still found it difficult to explain to non-tech people exactly what my job was.

The thing that attracted me to it was the technology and scale of data involved. From a purely engineering perspective, it was highly attractive. It was a small company, and as a small company in ad tech that still meant rapid and 0-downtime deploys, deeply-ingrained devops culture, rapidly evolving technology, and indexing/reporting/decision-making on thousands of events events every second. During peak seasons, every day we'd have another terabyte of data in the database.

AdTech also affords a lot more transparency into company finances than you would in other companies. You're building the tools used for reporting on revenue and costs that the entire business uses for almost all decision-making. Engineers don't live in a silo from that perspective.

From a product perspective, it was much less rewarding. You know how often times internal-facing applications have the worst UX? Everything we built felt like that because ultimately it was. There is also a lot of pressure that comes with the points above -- every second our system takes to throttle an ad campaign that has reached their budget, encounters an unavoidable AWS downtime, or exposes a reporting bug is company dollars down the drain.


I left an AdTech company about a year ago. I went to learn more about data engineering and applied machine learning. I learned a phenomenal amount, but I really grew to dislike the advertising industry. The incentives are hilarious misaligned, as the article discusses at length.

To be honest, a large part of my ethical discomfort was not only about implicitly contributing to the surveillance state, but about the waste of the use of computing power and time and work. Even if we succeed, and deliver the perfect recommendation to every single shopper, then <Large Client> might make X% more ROI from their website. Maybe a yay for <Large Client>'s stockholders? Unless you know, Twitter talks about them this week... How is the world a better place because I'm working at my job today?

I don't make my senior software engineer salary working for myself, but I've "digitized" 4 separate businesses since I left. It feels good to build tangible products and write software that make someone's life easier.


In my experience, AdTech companies will pay top dollar for engineering leadership (CTO, VP, etc.) but then hire a legion of junior developers at entry-level salaries to execute. I do wonder if AdTech hiring managers focus on young and inexperienced people fresh out of school who are attracted to beer and ping-pong and a decent salary for a first job.


Building systems that support millions of requests per second, that have actual real time constraints, that generate tons of data and operate in global networks. That produces a lot of interesting technical challenges.

AdTech absolutely works in some sense. Advertisers are fairly savvy about being able track improvements in sales of the things they are advertising and they have seen improvements using digital advertising. Does all the tracking/segmentation/attribution voodoo work? Does it make up for all the fraud and middlemen? I think those are open questions.

As for a privacy aware ad tech system, I think it’s fairly trivial to do that with something like RTB/open ecosystems. The problem there is that its a low margin business and the race to the bottom doesn’t incentivize it. People operating in that space are competing with Facebook and Google who obliterate the privacy veil & dominate the landscape.


I’ve been in the game for about 8 years now and I agree a lot with the author. I also think one issue is in the talent pool and hiring. You get a lot of well meaning but by and large poorly trained people in the space. And the result is poor use of the tools. Look at Salesforce Marketing Cloud for example. It’s immensely powerful. But 9 out of 10 orgs that use it are a shit show. And their results are often terrible. Because you have teams that simply aren’t technical enough to use it properly. This is common across the entire ad tech stack.


Technical challenges and salary. In my local market, most jobs are web shops and/or CRUD business applications with low pay.


My first ever "earning money in Internet" experience was in my teen years when I ran my own ad farm as a part of an ad farming collective 2005-2007. Back then, things were simple: you open a website, sign for 100+ banner networks, then drive in traffic with all tricks imaginable, including "buying it." Part of your revenue goes to group's 'big papa' who does all the "business cover" in the West: setting up companies, bank accounts, accounting, tax reporting, and cashing out payments from ad nets.

My second venture into Ad industry came rather unexpected. In 2016, when I had to leave Canada because my employer was denied LMIA (a paper "certifying" that you are not stealing a job from locals.) I called up all my friends with whomever I had working relationship before I moved out of Russia.

A man who once was a guy behind of Russia's biggest ad farming group back in mid-naughties called me back. Unbeknown to me, he worked day and night to up his profile for 10 years, and became a "big name man" in Ad industry, moved to USA, and opened one of the biggest DSP on the market today.

What shocked me, is that the nature of the industry and attitudes to the client hasn't changed a dime since 2005. The slang for F500 clients there is still a "whale" (the term itself originally came from either "ad farming" circles or banking)

After passing through shock coming back to Russia after 8 years and coming back to my senses, I said *ck with that and left. Been happily working in OEM electronics again since.


Online ads seem to perform poorly and, for larger companies with brand recognition and large budgets, almost no lift. I've been under the impression that adtech is a bubble, but I'm not an expert in the space.


It's not a bubble, but it definitely shouldn't be on a pedestal.


> Imagine you’re a marketing-degree graduate in middle management. If you’re lucky, you may have done some statistics courses. In your day-to-day, you likely don’t apply these to a great amount. You hear about this great thing called “Machine Learning” which is sweeping marketing departments. You might have read a white paper or two about it, heard about it at a conference, or been schmoozed by someone from IBM trying to sell you Watson (ugh). You decide to talk to a consultancy about it, or are referred to one by upper management, who’s been living from cocktail-to-cocktail on the consultant’s corporate AMEX for their entire career.

Lets be real - when you’re in this position, the consultants say a lot of words to you that you don’t understand and then you say yes to a contract because the PowerPoint looks good. Not only do you get to mention your huge new budget on your resume, thanks to the huge invoice, but you also get to mention you implemented MACHINE LEARNING at your company. But what’s next?

I have been working in advertising industry (background in software engineering) for 3+ years as an engineer (for one of the four biggest agencies). I think the author overestimates how much data we can/do collect, and how much we leverage on it. But the excerpt above is absolutely spot on. I'm a mid-level manager and I sometimes baffled at how much bullshit some companies try to sell to our clients (e.g., some big CPG companies), and how much the management folks from our clients and our advertising agency/company alike buy into that bullshit. "ML/AI" and "Media attribution" are really big now. But I believe almost 99% of the people who are leading these efforts (at least in my company) have no clue as to how to do it--thus, the snake oil salesmen are taking advantage of this.


Thanks for your kind words! :)

I worked at a Telecom for most of my time in AdTech so I think I might have had a close encounter with some particularly high overcollection of data there.


Ah...I definitely see the Telecoms recording and hoarding a lot of data without any regard to consequence/implication. I know a couple of coworkers who decided to leave my current employer and work for big Telecoms, and they said it's more chaotic there. :)


>Tracking is bad, because even if you don’t have anything to hide now, you may find that your past activities make you a target under a future political system.

I've been screaming about this for years, but everyone thinks I'm crazy. Here's an interesting point of frustration: one one likes to give out phone numbers in the context of online dating anymore. Usually the request is to move from, say, tinder, to an app like Snapchat. People don't understand why I'm hesitant, especially when they want to discuss relatively personal, indirectly or directly politically charged politics on a platform built to harvest literally everything you write, photograph, and send.

On some level I start to feel like society is deserving of the dystopia it is building, because the average person simply doesn't care to understand the dangers of anything they do when everyone else is doing it. But maybe that's just vindictiveness brought on by jealousy of their blissful ignorance.


Yeah, it sucks for advertisers, too.

From another active thread concerning the ad industry:

> Using Google retargeting ads, less than 5% of desktop traffic goes on to click anywhere on my website. And it's worse for mobile than on desktops.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20124231


You mean it sucks for you. How can you speak for all advertisers, especially based on a sample size of 200 clicks?

You have to diagnose what could be off on your end before making extreme blanket statements.

These ad systems are tools, and tools only work as well as how you use them.


This, this, this. So many people who are not well versed in advertising (the art, not the tech) simply launch a bare minimum campaign, for some reason expect great returns, then blame the tool. It's completely illogical. There are many components to an ad campaign, from targeting to what's being advertised to creative to copy (and the thousands of variations within each) to ad type...and so on.


Great returns?

My only expectations is being able to believe real people are actually clicking the ads.

Which I don't.


You realize the prices you pay per click or impression are set by a market, right? The crux of the problem is that other people are just better at advertising than you are. There's a lot of fraud but I'm tired of people on HN who are terrible at advertising saying that "ads don't work." It's like saying "code doesn't work". It's just nonsense.

What is your website/landing page URL and what did your ad say?


Maybe more focus should be on the fraud instead of the people who are wondering if ads are worth pursuing because of having to set aside a part of their budget to that fraud.

And considering the pervasiveness of tracking, why isn't the fraud better tracked?


> why isn't the fraud better tracked?

Because the people who are best-positioned to do something about click fraud also make heaps of money off of click fraud.

For example, browser extensions like AdNauseam that randomly "click" on ad links are maybe meant to be a middle finger aimed at the ad networks, but, realistically, if you, the person doing the advertising, are paying for clicks, then the main effect of such extensions is to transfer money from your pocket to the ad network's.


The ad networks don't seem to want to reduce fraud much. Possibly mostly because reducing fraud comes at the expense of denying real users, and the eventually-CPA-adjusted auction model means that the fraud should just be "factored into the price" and in that sense it's not a problem, and so they'd rather not deny 10 fraud clicks if it means accidentally elimininating 1 real click. But whatever the reason, they mostly view it as an issue advertisers should deal with.

On the advertiser side, fraud has a small impact due to idiot brands bidding up prices and also another small impact due to the fact that you need to cull all the worst placements/domains when you first start using a network or launch a campaign.

On the publisher side, each fraud penny earned is a penny directly taken away from legitimate publishers.

Fraud is much more a problem for publishers than for advertisers.


>You realize the prices you pay per click or impression are set by a market, right?

>There's a lot of fraud

Makes no sense.

Everytime AdTech comes up on HN, there's inevitably people who defend advertising with "you're not doing it right". Sorry, but the industry is a cesspool.


I'm saying each fake click brings no value and so advertisers lower their bids because at the end of the day they are looking at sales generated and bots dont buy. Professional performance-based advertisers don't really mind the fraud in the market, because it doesn't affect them any more than it affects any other advertiser, and it's a competition to convert best. In fact if you're better at detecting fraud placements, for example, it can actually be your edge over others.


Exactly this.

Are you retargeting someone immediately after they purchased? Before their purchase even arrived? Is it a good targeting list?

We have 3 buckets of customers, based on historical buying cycle: 0-30, 31-60, 61-90. We run retargeting within their purchase cycle, which is friendly and relevant.

Customers get churned out of retargeting if not within their buying cycle, which saves us money, and saves them irritation.


I find it hard to believe that 97.5% of people can click a link to a website and not even accidentally click something on that website.

I'm not referring to real conversions, where yes, skills in marketing and using the tools does make all the difference.

All I'm saying is that I paid for 200 clicks that appear to not even have real people clicking anywhere at all.


No doubt, there is fraud in the system. If you want to be successful in using these ad platforms for your business, you will have to accept that as a fact of life.

What you need to do is to exclude bad placements/websites from your campaign. But even before that, you have to see if your ads + landing page are compelling, or you'll just waste a ton of money.


>But even before that, you have to see if your ads + landing page are compelling, or you'll just waste a ton of money.

And how do you determine that, ex ante?


This part is more art than science, and requires being objective about the subjective, and what I mean by that is: being honest about what you're offering and if it's actually valuable to your prospects, and then seeing if how you're presenting your offer is simultaneously clear and breaks through the noise.

At the end of the day we're still talking about sales, just in a new form, in a multi-dimensional bazaar called the Internet.


Only you know how you set up your ads. Did you use the right keyword targeting? Location settings? Is your ad copy relevant to what you're actually selling or even to your website? Does your website have clear CTAs and copy? What is considered your conversion goal? Are you advertising in a popular market? Have you tried optimized with A/B testing for any of the above?


Retargeting + content keyword + location targeting.

That is, people that have visited my site in the past(with separate ad groups to test "expanded audiences"), currently visiting another site with the target keywords, from a targeted location.

And ads are generic branding and go to the homepage.

Conversion goal: simply clicking anything at all.


If they've visited before, why will they come again without a reason? Your ad has to actually convince them to do something beyond read the same thing twice.


Is your goal brand awareness or actual conversions (i.e. selling something or form fills)? It sounds like you're trying to do both.


> I find it hard to believe that 97.5% of people can click a link to a website and not even accidentally click something on that website.

Depends on the type of site. If I follow a link to read something, I'll probably read it and leave. If the site tries to make me click something, I'll probably just leave.


5% ain't bad. Depending on site content ctr could be as low as 0,5%. Rates have been dropping for ages.


That's 5% of clicks I paid for, resulting in any click on the website.


It doesn't really surprise me at all.

Virtually 100% of my clicks on ads are accidental - either the touchpad registered a tap when I didn't intend it, or, in the ever-increasing case of ads moving around on the page, because the ad popped in front of what I actually intended to click on.

To tell the truth, the ads may be working, insofar as sometimes I will go to find out more based on an ad. But you won't see it in your click-through rates. I'll get to your website by opening a new tab and searching in DDG, because at this point I'm so annoyed by adtech and all their scumminess that I'm not willing to give them any additional data if I can possibly avoid it.


I joined AdTech just a few years after graduation (my formative years as a software engineer) and that gave me the opportunity to work on very high throughput systems.

Eventually I got to lead several different project like building ad servers and real time bidder from scratch and scale them to the 100K+ requests per second while maintaining single digit ms avg response times. I also had a head start in the "big" data space because of AdTech.

I will always be thankful for the knowledge I got because of the nature of AdTech, it positioned me really well in the market and just made me a much better engineer.

After 5+ years working in AdTech is was time for a change, I was feeling dragged down by similar reasons, I had a high leadership position and a lot of domain knowledge so a lot to lose, but I made a change to mobile F2P gaming and have been doing that for over 3 years, it's been a great change.


The example of the pizza delivery selling the personal details of their customers is precisely why GDPR has value.

People have been dismissing it as being unfriendly to startups. As a software developer I totally get the complaints, but as an Internet user I couldn't care less.

You could say that the free market will adjust itself when consumers will figure out the damage and learn to protect themselves by choosing better alternatives. But there's no way to protect oneself. For example in the pizza delivery case, there's often no way to know that your address and phone will be sold to third parties, unless it's against the law to do so without you giving explicit consent.


Author here, the pizza example is great because I've found it is one that'll get a good eyebrow raise out of most people.

I think, like you say, it demonstrates how hard it is to protect yourself. Thanks for reading :)


Selling personal data without permission is illegal without GDPR.


And made legal by some very fine print buried in the ToS.


Yes, AFAIK GDPR makes it that you have to also opt into your data being shared/sold besides the ToS.


This is done all the time by credit score companies.


AFAIK credit score companies get the data you given with consent to credit card companies.

Otherwise they can collect data on you with other means, if they find it publicly available, for instance.

But if you give your data to a pizza place without consent to sell it, or share it with vendors, it is illegal for them to sell it share it.

IANAL btw


Please explain.


AFAIK GDPR makes a slight difference because it requires opt in for data sharing.

But I'd argue it is very hard, if not possible, to know if a company has shared your data.

The damage of regulations like this may be greater than the benefit.

We will see how the weak European innovation will take these changes.

I say weak innovation bc VC money is not flowing there as it does in US.


the lack of VC culture doesn't indicate a lack of innovation, because the VC industry is just one form of financing businesses, very regionally limited to countries that have huge homogenous consumer markets and operate on scale. Innovation in countries like Germany is traditionally distributed.

And the idea that GDPR is damaging to innovation is really just a fiction at best and deregulation agitprop at worst. Europe has not competed with tech giants before GDPR, and more importantly, even other US companies cannot compete with Facebook or Google. You can measure the lack of competition in feet as you walk away from the Google and Facebook HQs. VC money in the US is geographically concentrated in an area that doesn't even cover 1% of the map, the law has nothing to do with it.


I find it very hard to decouple VC from innovation, if its the case that this 1% area has most the VC is true, isn't most of the world's innovation coming from it too?

Europe hasn't been creating as much as the US before GDPR, I would think it gets worse after it.

I am pretty sure some other reason for the decline will pop up, if not the alright denial you displayed.


Ironically that url is being blocked by Ublock Origin on my phone.


Author here - I actually had to change some of the image URLs I made because they had AdTech in the name, and uBlock was blocking them. Hahaha!

I solemnly swear that my website has no tracking installed on it (that I know of, welp). Cheers.


Probably because of the combination of “advertising” and dates in the path.


I do not experience this -- sounds like a false positive. I tried enabling various filter lists to see if I could reproduce and I can't. What reason uBO is giving you for blocking the page?


Its not always sucks, as a consumer, if I can get cheaper pizza, with the trade of they may sell my data, I'm fine with it.

What is the downside ? My email spammed ? not that much of issue, gmail spam filter work reasonably well.

My phone being spammed by robocall ? smart app can filter those out too.

Ads on the web ? adblocker solve that.


Author here. Would you be ok with your health insurer buying your pizza purchase frequency from a data broker?


Whats the actual issue ? They might increase my premium if i I buy too much pizza ? then it may be possible they might decrease my premium if I don't buy pizza that much.


Do you really want every decision you make to be available to everyone you interact with, and then used to judge you? You're that confident in the dirty details of your life?


Ideally yes, provided everyone else decision is also available to me. Do I have dirt ? Of course. I would be okay if everyone else dirt is exposed too.

True that people can use information to judge me, but it can be both positive and negative.

Right now, having "dirt" is not without its trade off and inconvenient, you have to make effort to conceal it, hide it.


Keep in mind "dirty details" is a matter of perspective. Details that aren't dirty can become dirty depending upon who is wielding power.


It's none of their fucking business. That's the problem.


It should be referred to as Tracking Tech, it reflects the actual goal much more clearly.


I commented on a different article earlier which was all fear mongering. This, on the other hand, is exactly correct. This article is fantastic and spot on.




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