According to consumer reports, 85% of shoppers object to the idea of having their online activity tracked for advertising purposes (https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/05/most-consumers-oppose-internet-ad-tracking/index.htm). However, many also stated that they would compromise their privacy for advertising purposes. There exists a discrepancy between what people say they want and their actions. While many stated their desire for data to be secure, at the same time, they willingly allow corporations such as Facebook, Google and many others privy to monetize personal data.
Today, most of the biggest Internet-based companies rely on advertising for a healthy chunk of their profits, with the biggest exception being Amazon, although they also have an advertising arm that also gains profit. A large amount of online content is created with the intent to attract eyeballs so companies can sell the amount of website traffic to entice advertisers. Tracked advertising is the practice of keeping consumer data to deliver advertising content that these companies think will be algorithmically aligned with our spending habits. Scandals occur when this data is used for unethical purposes. For example, alongside Facebook, Cambridge Analytica has been under fire earlier this year for using private data of users. While privacy advocates and experts have urged users to delete their Facebook account following this scandal, many casual Facebook users were still unaware of this data breach case.
Tracked advertising has a lot of problems that the government is unable to regulate. Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to limit the ability of these companies to collect private data. While preventive measures have been taken in response to this issue, such as the government forcing companies to implement a “Do Not Track” option within their internet browsers so as to allow users to decide whether they want to disclose their information.
While tracked advertising has its benefits such as producing better targeted and quality advertisements, it is also a dangerous barter of personal data. Tracked advertising is a serious privacy violation for internet users who are unable to control when and what personal information they disclose about themselves. In addition, they are unable to erase the information collected by these companies.
Better Ethical Advertising:
There are more ethical advertising methods, the most promising being Influencer Marketing.
Currently, there are still unethical advertising methods whereby brands push their influencers to endorse, feature and pay without disclosing if the content featured happens to be a paid advertisement. However, more stringent enforcements have been put into place, which include punishments given to local influencers on a case by case basis. Moreover, it also has become acceptable for influencers to disclose the sponsors of their branded content.