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Friday, January 22, 2010

Internet Consolidation Can Be Good for Privacy

There's been a lot of hand-wringing lately about Google's recent acquisitions of Teracent (ad-personalization) and AdMob (mobile ads), as well as Apple's response, buying AdMob's rival Quattro Wireless. Jeff Chester, true To form, quickly fired off an angry letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, ranting about how the Google/AdMob deal would harm consumer privacy with the same vague fulminations as ever:

Google amasses a goldmine of data by tracking consumers' behavior as they use its search engine and other online services. Combining this information with information collected by AdMob would give Google a massive amount of consumer data to exploit for its benefit.

Yup, that's right, it's all part of Google's grand conspiracy to exploit (and eventually enslave) us all--and Apple is just a latecomer to this dastardly game. It's not as if that data about users' likely interests might, oh, I don't know... actually help make advertising more relevant--and thus increase advertising revenues for the mobile applications/websites that depend on advertising revenues to make their business models work. No, of course not! Greedy capitalist scum like Google and Apple don't care about anyone but themselves, and just want to extract every last drop of "surplus value" (as Marx taught us) from The Worker. (Never mind that in 4Q2009 Google generated $1.47 billion for website owners who use Google AdSense to sell ads on their sites--up 17% over 4Q2008--or that Apple has a strong incentive to maximize revenues for its iPhone app developers.) Internet users of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but all those "free" content and services thrown at your feet!

Continue reading Internet Consolidation Can Be Good for Privacy . . .

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:19 AM | Advertising & Marketing, Appleplectics, Googlephobia, Privacy

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Apple Empowering Users to "Sell" Their Attention to Advertisers for "Free" Stuff

Why do (most) stores have walls? Because, obviously, walls are generally (at least in the developing world) a cost-effective technology for enforcing the value exchange that stores offer customers: products or services for customers' cash. Open-air markets exist, but tend to be reserved for items cheap enough that the costs of theft fall below some "acceptable loss threshold." All stores ultimately rely on employees and the police to chase down shoplifters.

Abbie_hoffman_steal_this_bookYet many valuable media products have long been simply given away by their producers in the implicit value exchange of advertising: newspapers, magazines, radio, television and online content/services for customers' attention. It's as if publishers set up a store with no walls and put up a big "steal this book!" sign inviting shoplifters in. Advertisers simply have to hope that their ads are interesting enough to catch the attention of readers/viewers/listeners--and, on the Web, maybe even get users to click on the ad! It should be obvious that the lack of any "enforcement technology" simply means that there will be less funding for this "free" stuff enjoyed by consumers--just as there would be fewer goods and/or higher prices if stores were prevented from discouraging or punishing shoplifting.

Ethicists could debate until the cows come home whether ad-blocking (or ad-ignoring) is morally tantamount to shoplifting--taking without "paying" (through attention)--but who cares? Whatever the morality of it, the important, and undeniable, thing is that those who ignore/block commercials are free-riding on the economic value created by those who don't.

Enter Apple, which recently filed a patent application for a technology intended to ensure that users are seeing, and actually paying attention to, ads. Randall Stross, author of the excellent book Planet Google, hates the idea of "compelling attention" and suggests that it would so annoy consumers that it would cost Apple more in reputational capital than it's worth. Stross may well be proven right in the marketplace (and, if so, fine), but does that make Apple's proposal wrong? The brilliantly satirical "Secret Diary of Steve Jobs" calls the idea "evil," and suggests that, in the pretended voice of Steve Jobs:

Continue reading Apple Empowering Users to "Sell" Their Attention to Advertisers for "Free" Stuff . . .

posted by Berin Szoka @ 10:46 PM | Advertising & Marketing, Appleplectics, Philosophy / Cyber-Libertarianism

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