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The case against commercial surveillance online [pdf] (forbrukerradet.no)
57 points by Mizza 26 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments



I submitted this, but for some reason the title has been changed. The name of the report is "Time to Ban Surveillance Based Advertising." I don't know who changed it or why, but this was done without my permission.

The organization who wrote it, Forbruker Rådet, is the Norwegian Consumers Council and are taken seriously in the country. Norway is a small country with strong consumer protections, so it's possible the country could serve as a testbed for implementing this kind of restriction.

There is also an open letter signed by a number of privacy organizations and companies which support this call for a ban: https://protonmail.com/blog/ban-surveillance-advertising/


>The organization who wrote it, Forbruker Rådet, is the Norwegian Consumers Council

Strictly speaking, that should be "Forbrukerrådet" - it's one word. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norwegian_Consumer_Council


While I agree with the premise, I think this is going to be a huge battle to win very little: advertisers taken out by the door will come back through the windows.

At this stage, we should just ban advertising in general.

The purpose of advertising was to be able to give informations to the customers so they could chose, but it's not what's happening anymore. Now, it's a tool mostly used by those having money and/or power to have more of it, or keep it.

Removing advertising will have a lots of benefits:

- small shops will have a better fighting chance. Their local presence will give them visibility.

- "free products" that are actually paid with advertising will be filtered out based on their actual value for the users since they will have to explicitly pay for them

- no more information pollution on TV, internet, billboards, etc. No more product placement, star endorsement, branded athletes...

- billions of dollars redirected from ads to actually make useful things. Probably closer to home as well.

- fake reviews, paid articles, click bots, etc, would be prosecuted, making money for the state, and less fake news for us. The signal vs noise would get better significantly.

- weak people, like kids or the elderly, will not be campaigned to be molded into consumers. And social norms not affected as much by corporations.

- and the incentive to spy on consumers, hold as much data as we can, crafting future data leak disasters, will naturally become weaker. No need to fight for it.

The downsides exist, but cannot even touch a world with a ton of less waste and bs, and money for the business that make a living with it.


I wonder how this would work in practice as I have a hard time imagining it.

If I launched a new business, how would I promote it save for advertising? Must I only rely on word of mouth from satisfied customers? How do I let people know I even have a business if I am restricted from advertising that to them?

A local bricks and mortar location might attract walk-in or walk-by traffic, but how might a new online business get found?


It would be hard, but word-of-mouth.

Growing a business organically was never easy, and never will be.

However, there are things you can do to short circuit it in good ways.

My wife went to business school with a woman who started a breakfast kolaches business. Her first two weeks open, she made mini kolaches, and they were all free.

In the college town, word-of-mouth about free food spread fast, and at the end of two weeks, though she had lost gobs of money, she had gobs of repeat customers because her kolaches were awesome.

If you make it, they will come if you make it free for the start. There are probably other things you can do too.


word-of-mouth is still advertising it's just not the traditional way. What will happen is businesses will just pay people to run around talking about how awesome their business is.


That's true, but the word-of-mouth I am talking about is different. I'm talking about word-of-mouth where actual customers of the business decide of their own free will to tell people how good it is.

I don't think that's advertising in the sense that we understand it.


I mean if I'm a business I will just give free stuff to someone with more clout and then they'll give me all sorts of praise. Exactly the same as social media influencers.

On the surface your idea seems good but it'll easily get corrupted.


I think you are correct, but I also hope people still have good detectors for such underhanded tactics. I could be wrong, though.

But even if they do it, and it turns out the product is not good, customers won't come back. That's why the kolaches thing worked.

I love those kolaches, by the way, and I never got a free one. My wife introduced me to them.


You can always take something organic and pay for it, but the impact is so much lower than what we currently have it's ok to go full pareto.


- you create valuable content so that search engines bring people to you.

- you have a real activity in social networks, so that the community know you for you actual benefits, and will follow up on your work.

- you go to IRL meetup to create relationships with people and tell them about your products.

- you register your app to listings that let people search for things.

- you create open source software so that people will learn about what you do.

- you participate in the ecosystem you want to flourish, like being involved in not-for-profit groups related to your activity.

- world of mouth.

- partnership with complementary services.

- free samples, sales, etc.

Of courses those are only a few ideas. I'm sure people will get creatives; give a problem for humans to solve, and they come up with plenty of stuff.

The idea is that you can't just blast society with screams for you product. But you can have positives actions into the world that will make you known.


Personally, I have little problem with most advertising. The thing that makes online ads toxic is the data collection that goes along with them. It is entirely possible to do advertising without all the spying, so I differentiate between the two things.


I don't think banning advertising is possible, but it's interesting to think about.

A lot of youtubers I watched depend on ads revenue to support their enterprise. They would need to lean more heavily on patreon and the like.


It is possible, the consequences would be huge, and a lot of people make money with ads directly or indirectly, so they would get harshly impacted.

But after a while, I believe an economy were you pay to get this content would appear, stabilize, and be saner. Of course the decade where the filter would operate would be painful.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure banning slavery had a high economic impact on the USA. I'm also sure a lot of people complained about that, and said it would be impossible.


> advertisers taken out by the door will come back through the windows.

True. The internet ad industry has been engaging in outright war with us all for a very long time, and they certainly won't ever stop.

We have a model for what this will continue to look like -- the internet ad industry is no different than other types of online attackers. They'll continue to attack, we will develop defenses against their attacks, they'll change to different methods, and so forth.

It's a war that can never be won, but that we can't afford to stop fighting.


There is the implication here that this is a conversation between peers, about the proper course of action.

I think it's actually a fight.

(between a small, well-organized, wealthy army and a vast disordered rabble)

The idea that it's a conversation is just so much wool pulled over our eyes. A method that our opponent uses to win the fight.

Welcome to the jungle.


> surveillance-based advertising should be phased out and, in time, banned.

Best date to do that would be yesterday. Surveillance undermines trust. Have any problem with that? Press? Politics? Your anxious teenage daughter? No? Never mind then.




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