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Online Ads: The Good, The Bad, The Annoying
As a popular online quote says, “Oh good, a banner ad…said no one ever.” Online advertising comes in many forms, including banner ads at the top of websites, automatic videos that play before your chosen YouTube content and the dreaded pop-up window. While online content creators rely on advertising for a portion of their profits, the increasingly invasive nature of online ads has created demand for ad blocking solutions.
The Good and the Bad
There are advertising networks and publishers which attempt to target users with relevant, non-invasive ads. Embracing a model of fair and responsible advertising allows these sites to earn revenue without hindering the user experience or draining their customers’ processor speed and internet bandwidth. Such websites are able to offer free, high-value content while earning money through targeted online advertising. Most ad blockers allow you to accept advertising on these select sites, also known as ‘whitelisting’ the site in question.
Alternately, some websites contain too many unwanted ads, making it difficult to view the content you actually want to see. These ads can consume a lot of your computer’s processing power, slowing down your online experience. Video and audio ads can download large amounts of content onto your system. This becomes more noticeable when browsing the internet on your mobile phone or tablet while on data instead of Wi-Fi, since you’re paying for the data contained within the ads you see. It’s comparable to advertising billboards on the highway slowing down your car and increasing your fuel costs.
Furthermore, a number of prominent websites have been affected by advertising which attempts to infect users with malware, including sites for The New York Times, MSN, and the BBC. Due to the nature of online advertising networks, hackers can purchase ad space across numerous sites and use these ads to target users.
How do advertisers track my online activity?
Advertisers use a number of methods to track users’ online activities. One method is called a “tracking pixel” or “web beacon.” A tracking pixel is a tiny transparent image which is invisible to the user. When this invisible image is loaded it sends a message to the advertiser’s server and informs them that you visited the web page and viewed the advertisement. This information typically contains your IP address, a unique combination of numbers which identifies individual computers on the internet. A user’s IP address can reveal their location and the name of their Internet Service Provider. Using a network of such trackers, advertisers can use the information they collect to create revealing user profiles based on previous online purchases and long-term internet history. An ad blocker such as Ad-Aware Ad Block can stop online trackers from recording your information and helps ensure your privacy.
How does an ad blocker work?
An ad blocker is a program that targets and removes advertising content from websites and online videos. Extensions such as Ad-Aware Ad Block prevent most advertising from ever being downloaded to your computer, blocking the ad before it loads. This prevents online advertisements from consuming bandwidth and mobile data. In addition to blocking annoying pop-ups and banner ads, this method also shields users against tracking technologies like the aforementioned tracking pixels, protecting your online privacy as you search, shop, and bank online.