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If It’s Advertised to You Online, You Probably Shouldn’t Buy It. Here’s Why.

The New York Times: “…The ability to track people has turned out to be an unbeatable advantage for the online ad industry, which has grown to a $540 billion market worldwide, according to the media agency GroupM, dwarfing all other forms of advertising, including TV, radio and newspapers. It has propelled the massive growth of Google and Facebook as well as hundreds of so-called “adtech” firms that serve as intermediaries between the buyers and sellers of targeting information.But the rise of microtargeting has come with a staggering price tag. “There is limited evidence to suggest that the efficiency and efficacy gains to advertisers and publishers of this system outweighs the societal impact,” concludes a 274-page study published by the European Commission earlier this year. It calls for reforming the surveillance business model. Already, we know that web tracking has decimated publishers. This has been particularly devastating for traditional news outlets: Global newspaper revenue plummeted from $107 billion in 2000 to nearly $32 billion in 2022, according to GroupM. This is a blow for democracy: Studies show that voting decreases and corruption increases in communities without strong news outlets. Microtargeting has also enabled advertisers to discriminate in ways that are hard for regulators to catch. It is illegal, for example, for advertisers to use language in their ads suggesting that jobs, housing or credit opportunities are being offered to people of a certain race, gender, age or other protected characteristics. But ad targeting means that advertisers can hide their preferences in the algorithm. Facebook has repeatedly been shown to have enabled discriminatory advertising. (The company has consistently argued in court that it is not liable for the choices advertisers make on its platform and has since agreed to change its ad delivery system.)…”

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