dmarti is currently certified at Master level.

Name: Don Marti
Member since: 2000-04-21 19:59:46
Last Login: 2007-08-14 04:08:08

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Homepage: http://zgp.org/~dmarti/

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No haiku patents
means I've no incentive to

When a site tries to violate users' common-sense expectation of privacy, it should be the system administrator's responsibility to protect the user unless the user requests otherwise. Web ad banners are a security hole.

Information wants to be $6.95.

This 5-minute DNS tweak

protects you and the users who depend on you from the evil, intrusive tracking of doubleclick.net.

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Don't punch the monkey. Embrace the Badger.

One of the main reactions I get to Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful is: why are you always on about saving advertising? Advertising? Really? Wouldn't it be better to have a world where you don't need advertising?

Even when I do point out how non-targeted ads are good for publishers and advertisers, the obvious question is, why should I care? As a member of the audience, or a regular citizen, why does advertising matter? And what's all this about the thankless task of saving online advertising from itself? I didn't sign up for that.

The answer is: Because externalities.

Some advertising has positive externalities.

The biggest positive externality is ad-supported content that later becomes available for other uses. For example, short story readers today are benefitting from magazine ad budgets of the 19th-20th centuries.

Every time you binge-watch an old TV show, you're a positive externality winner, using a cultural good originally funded by advertising.

I agree with the people who want ad-supported content for free, or at a subsidized price. I'm not going to condemn all advertising as The Internet's Original Sin. I just think that we need to fix the bugs that make Internet advertising less valuable than ads in older media.

Some advertising has negative externalities.

On the negative side, the biggest externality is the identity theft risks inherent in large databases of PII. (And it's all PII. Anonymization is bogus.) The costs of identity theft fall on the people whose information is compromised, not on the companies that chose to collect it.

In 20 years, people will look back at John Battelle's surveillance marketing fandom the way we now watch those 1950s industrial films that praise PCBs, or asbestos, or some other God-awful substance that we're still spending billions to clean up. PII is informational haszmat.

The French Task Force on Taxation of the Digital Economy suggests a unit charge per user monitored to address the dangers that uncontrolled practices regarding the use of these data are likely to raise for the protection of public freedoms. But although that kind of thing might fly in Europe, in the USA we have to use technology. And that's where regular people come in.

What you can do

Your choice to protect your privacy by blocking those creepy targeted ads that everyone hates is not a selfish one. You're helping to re-shape the economy. You're helping to move ad spending away from ads that target you, and have negative externalities, and towards ads that are tied to content, and have positive externalities. It's unlikely that Internet ads will ever be all positive, or all negative, but privacy-enabled users can shift the balance in a good way.

Don't punch the monkey. Embrace the Badger.

Syndicated 2014-08-29 13:16:08 from Don Marti

QoTD: Craig Simmons

While ad fraud hurts the brand, every other party benefits from its existence. This alone has buoyed ad fraud's overwhelming survival in the industry. Bot operators, of course, end up pocketing a significant chunk of the $140 billion of overall digital ad spend. But it's not just the botmasters or fraudulent site owners that benefit. Buyers in the space have long been winning incremental budgets from advertisers by buying artificially well-performing impressions. Open exchanges and supply side platforms (SSPs) are responding to a demand for inventory by buying cheap scale from unknown publishers with limited transparency into the quality of those sites.

Craig Simmons

Syndicated 2014-08-26 04:21:47 from Don Marti

Temporary directory for a shell script

Set up a temporary directory to use in a Bash script, and clean it up when the script finishes:

  TMPDIR=$(mktemp -d)
trap "rm -rf $TMPDIR" EXIT

Syndicated 2014-08-22 18:46:57 from Don Marti

Original bug, not original sin

Ethan Zuckerman calls advertising The Internet's Original Sin. But sin is overstating it. Advertising has an economic and social role, just as bacteria have an important role in your body. Many kinds of bacteria can live on and around you just fine, and only become a crisis when your immune system is compromised.

The bad news is that the Internet's immune system is compromised. Quinn Norton summed it up: Everything is Broken. The same half-assed approach to security that lets random trolls yell curse words on your baby monitor is also letting a small but vocal part of the ad business claim an unsustainable share of Internet-built wealth at the expense of original content.

But email spam didn't kill email, and surveillance marketing won't kill the Web. Privacy tech is catching up. AdNews has a good piece on the progress of ad blocking, but I'm wondering about how accurate any measurement of ad blocking can be in the presence of massive fraud. Fraudulent traffic is a big part of the picture, and nobody has an incentive to run an ad blocker on that. The results from the combination of fraud and use of privacy tools are unpredictable. Paywalls are the obvious next step, but there are ways for sites to work with privacy tools, not against them.

What Ethan calls pay-for-performance is the smaller, and less valuable, part of advertising. Online ads are stuck in that niche not so much because of original sin, but because of an original bug. When the browsers of Dot-Com Boom 1.0 came out in a rush with support for privacy antifeatures such as third-party tracking, the Web excluded itself from lucrative branding or signaling advertising. The Web became a direct-response medium like email spam or direct mail. Bob Hoffman said, The web is a much better yellow pages and a much worse television. But that's not inherent in the medium. The Web is able to carry better and more signalful ads as the privacy level goes up. That's a matter of fixing the privacy bugs that allow for tracking, not a sin to expiate.

Recent news, from Kate Tummarello at The Hill: Tech giants at odds over Obama privacy bill. Microsoft is coming in on one side, and a group of mostly surveillance marketing firms calling itself the united voice of the Internet economy is on the other. There's no one original sin here, but there's plenty of opportunity in fixing bugs.

Bonus links

Jeff Jarvis: Absolution? Hell, no

Jason Dorrier: Burger Robot Poised to Disrupt Fast Food Industry

BOB HOFFMAN: Confusing Gadgetry With Behavior

Syndicated 2014-08-17 12:21:35 from Don Marti

Point of order: social buttons

This is a quick privacy check.

(If you're reading this on the full-text RSS feed, or a site that consumes it, please click through. It won't take long. If you're looking at this on the blog homepage, please click the title to look at the individual post. The buttons are only on the individual post pages.)

Do you see the "social sharing" buttons at the bottom of this post, at the end of the text but above the miscelleneous links and blogroll? I just got an automated report that people are actually clicking them.

If your privacy tools are up to date, you shouldn't be seeing any big web site logos here. The sinister buttons should be blocked by any halfway-decent privacy tool.

If you do see the buttons, please get Disconnect or Privacy Badger.

If you don't see the buttons, you're already doing something that's making a difference. Carry on.

If you have a privacy tool installed and think you should be protected, but are seeing the buttons anyway, please let me know and I'll help you troubleshoot it.

Syndicated 2014-08-03 15:00:28 from Don Marti

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