Some Progress on Adtech

Regular readers know that Adtech is the general term for the technology that advertisers use to spy on us and collect information about our buying and surfing habits. It’s widespread, mostly fraudulent from an advertisers’ point of view, is a major malware vector, and is generally an unsavory enterprise. Now, finally, browser manufacturers are stepping up to do something about it.

Starting in early 2018, the Chromium browser will block ads that do not meet the Better Ads Standards. The standard does not address tracking ads but does call out some of the more annoying practices such as autoplay videos. There’s no mention of what, if anything, Chromium is planning on doing about tracking.

Meanwhile, Apple has announced that they will be rolling out changes to Safari that specifically addresses the tracking problem. It seems like a pretty sophisticated framework aimed at preventing advertisers from tracking users. You can read some of the technical details at the WebKit Blog. The new Safari will also block autoplay.

I welcome both these initiatives. Some have suggested that it gives Google (in particular) too much power but it’s still much better than the situation we find ourselves in today. As I’ve said before, I recognize that ads are the price we pay for the content we enjoy and I’m fine with the ads as long as they aren’t overly intrusive—like autoplay videos—and don’t track my browsing habits. Until the advertisers knock it off, I’m going to continue to use Ghostery and similar utilities but I welcome whatever help I can get from the browser manufacturers.

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