ShaunK Blog

you don't get it both ways

It's kind of weird to see people complaining about the low quality of ads, when it's exactly what folks are trying to make happen. I never really envisioned myself becoming an apologist for big tech advertisers, but the dissonance is strange to me.

I definitely have a bias here, but this has less to do with protecting my livelihood and more to do with Knoll's law. All of the reporting I've read on this subject has a pretty clear narrative: evil Meta is harvesting your data and selling it to bad actors so they can use it to track you everywhere you go and saintly Apple has come to save you with their privacy rules. From my perspective both are true and neither are.

Meta is very particular about what they'll share with your average advertiser. Perhaps there are deals being made with bigger fish than I have had the opportunity to work with, but for the most part, you don't get to know anything about anyone in particular. This stands to reason: Meta's competitive advantage is precisely that they know things you don't about its users, and so you pay them to pick the best people to show your ads. Does Meta have a lot of information about your behaviour? Yes absolutely, but their product isn't data brokerage, it's the algorithms that place the right ads in front of the right people leveraging that data.

You know who does collect your data and sell it? Telecoms, Credit cards and Meta oh oops lol.

I think the point still stands though: there are long standing "non-tech" businesses that are actually harvesting your data explicitly to sell profiling information about you to third parties, and I don't get the impression they're picky about who. Those people are in turn building profiles and reselling that data (ie they're data brokers). That is a far worse transgression than advertisers reporting back to Facebook that you bought their product after clicking your ad.

A large part of my frustration in watching this narrative play out is that there are easy avenues to alleviate almost all of the privacy concerns (barring bad actors operating outside of the law) while still letting platforms show useful ads to people. Governments have missed the mark, and produced a lot of difficult to implement, and difficult to enforce, regulation.

And as for saintly Apple: it's worth mentioning that the only ads platform on iOS the average advertiser can receive granular user level ad attribution for is Apple Search Ads. Weird!

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