The Ethics of Modern Web Ad-Blocking

Marco Arment:

All of that tracking and data collection is done without your knowledge, and — critically — without your consent. Because of how the web and web browsers work, the involuntary data collection starts if you simply follow a link. There’s no opportunity for disclosure, negotiation, or reconsideration. By following any link, you unwittingly opt into whatever the target site, and any number of embedded scripts from other sites and tracking networks, wants to collect, track, analyze, and sell about you.

That’s why the implied-contract theory is invalid: people aren’t agreeing to write a blank check and give up reasonable expectations of privacy by clicking a link. They can’t even know what the cost of visiting a page will be until they’ve already visited it and paid the price.

And it’s all getting so much worse, so quickly.

It’s not just about privacy. There are other costs: network bandwidth (which for many of us is metered on cellular), page load times, and increased CPU usage, are real costs — paid entirely by the visitors to websites.

I don’t want to block “ads”. I want to block garbage JavaScript. I’ve been using Ghostery on my Macs for a few months now, and the results are impressive. I expect the results to be even more significant on the phone with content blockers in iOS 9.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

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