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Ad Blockers and YouTube's war

If you have been paying attention to the tech world lately you have likely seen that YouTube, the popular video streaming service owned by Alphabet, Google's parent company, has begun use of ad blocker. This is in response to the ever growing trend of users, sick of seeing multiple ads per video downloading apps and browser extensions to block out ads all together. What you may not know, is that this "war" isn't just about advertising, but user privacy as a whole, so buckle up and get ready to learn how the outcome of this battle may determine how your personal data is used in the future.


First, lets talk about how internet ads work. You may think they are just random paid ads for slots on certain content, similar to how broadcast television works. In this method, an advertiser pays for a "slot" to run their advertisement. For instance, The Home Depot may pay for a slot during a show that fits their target demographic. Unfortunately, the reality of internet advertisement is much more personal


Internet ads are served up by ad networks, large databases that contain information on hundreds of thousands of people. This information comes from many sources such as data brokers who sell your information as well as your computer. When you visit a website you may have seen the "Accept all Cookies" pop up. Cookies are little pieces of code that store information about your visit to a website, and some are crucial for the site to function, but the cookies ads use are not. Some cookies go as far as to read data from your browser to determine what sites you visit, how often, how long you were on those sites, etc.


As you can imagine, many people are not happy about this and, rightfully so, believe they should not be tracked online by private companies. Ad networks and data brokers use these cookies to create profiles on you as a person determining your location, age, interests, medical issues, sexual orientation, and other very personal information. Facebook is notorious for having profiles on people who have never had a Facebook profile complete with name, age, and location. They use this information to advertise what they believe is "relevant" to you. For instance, if you spend a lot of time watching gardening videos or browsing the internet for garden tips you will see more ads related to miracle gro.


Now that we've gone over how you get ads on the internet, lets discuss how ad blockers work. Generally speaking, they work by having a "black list" of addresses used by advertisements and block the connection before it can ever get to you, preventing the ads from being displayed on the website, some go as far as to block certain types of internet cookies as well. The Brave browser, which we highly recommend, has anti-tracking and ad block baked right in to help increase privacy.


Now that we have discussed the two sides, what exactly is going on? On one hand, you have Alphabet, that owns YouTube and Google claiming that by blocking ads, you are violating the terms of service. The reason they claim this is because their multi-billion dollar income relies on ads being displayed, even if that means breaching your privacy to do it. On the other hand you have ad blockers that claim that users shouldn't be forced to allow their information to be bought and sold so that companies like Alphabet can serve them ads.


So why does this matter? Well, as it stands now its a tug of war between the two sides, each trying to use new ways to break the other. YouTube is trying to force users to all connections to these ad networks to use their service while ad blockers are finding more clever ways to avoid detection and prevent the users information from being seen by YouTube. This matters because the outcome of this battle could one day lead to how information on your computer and tracking cookies are allowed to be used. The EU already has laws in place that restrict cookies by forcing websites to request permission first, which they do but make it as painful as possible to turn off in hopes you'll just click accept all.


Either way, this battle has some positives. By causing ad blockers to ramp up efforts to keep their apps working, its sparking new and innovative ways to keep users online safe and private that may not otherwise have been engineered. Ultimately this battle of attrition will eventually create a long standing precedent on how your information is used online, with or without your consent.

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