Some of the bigger tech companies have been in the spotlight recently, for all the wrong reasons.
The Cambridge Analytica data scandal is probably the best example, where Facebook has come under fire for its handling of user data. It’s a big story, with serious implications for the parties involved and the future of how we use online data.
It didn’t come as a huge surprise that sites like Facebook were collecting user data. After all, they’ve always been pretty clear about that policy. The controversy came about after the revelation that Facebook was sharing information about users that could be used to potentially identify them, which was being used to sway political opinion.
That’s a big breach of users’ privacy and has ignited a heated debate about how big online platforms use the data they collect and whether or not it’s ethical.
While Facebook has pledged to take steps to be more transparent, and might make further changes to how they handle data, the problem isn’t likely to just disappear.
That’s because collecting and monetizing user data is an enormous part of the business model of companies like Facebook and Google.
Let’s quickly run through how it works.
Profit from data
Big online platforms have access to a colossal amount of user data. When you ‘like’ a Facebook page, post a status, or run a search on Google, you’re handing valuable information to those companies.
This info is particularly valuable when advertising because it tells them what you like, which means it tells them what you’re likely to buy. It can be used to target ads at people who are most likely to respond to them.
The big platforms can work with ad companies to target ads and run a tidy profit, since they don’t pay a cent to the users that provided it.
What’s more, Facebook and Google are full of content. Provided for free by users of the platforms, this content pulls in insane amounts of traffic, something else advertisers will pay handsomely to access.
It’s a neat system for the tech giants, there’s no question about it. For almost everyone else involved, however, it’s far from perfect.
While identity theft is a very serious concern, the problems with this model extend far beyond that.
A lose-lose-lose situation
Many of the issues with this kind of data selling arise from inaccuracy. It’s all-too-common for data to be misused, which results in ad companies getting the wrong information.
The result of this is poorly targeted ads, aimed at people who aren’t interested in what’s being sold. This can be extremely irritating for users, who find themselves bombarded with inappropriate ads.
It’s bad news for the advertisers too, of course, because they’re paying to advertise to people who are unlikely to buy and may even block their ads in future.
Another issue is that users simply aren’t rewarded fairly for their data, while Google and Facebook make astronomical amounts of money from it.
The issue of unfairness extends to content creators, too. These are the people who create the posts, videos, groups, and much more that attracts millions upon millions of visitors to the sites.
Their content makes it possible to charge sky-high rates for advertising space, and is basically the engine driving these giant platforms. Unfortunately, they’re often rewarded poorly and are unable to make any kind of living from their hobby.
All of these groups lose out while the likes of Facebook and Google get richer and richer.
It’s a frustrating situation, but there is some good news. People are beginning to see the flaws in this type of system and are working hard to build alternatives that work for everyone.
Winning the war on centralization
Platforms like Facebook and Google are centralized. That’s the basis of the system — they function as middlemen between advertisers, users, and content creators.
Through Kind Ads, advertisers would be able to interact with users and content creators directly, rather than going through a third-party platform.
This way users would have control over their data. They’d be able to choose which advertisers could access it, and even charge them in cryptocurrency tokens. That way users can own and monetize their valuable information.
It benefits advertisers too, because they can focus their efforts on people who are genuinely interested in their products and services. This way they can advertise more effectively and precisely.
At the same time, BAT have developed their own browser, Brave that completely blocks ads that violate user’s privacy. The downside is that people will most likely keep using the top browsers and therefore Kind Ads have chosen a browser agnostic approach while BAT have developed their own browser.
Blockchain could fundamentally change the way we advertise online.
A more intimate and direct relationship between ad companies and users would allow for the use of more ‘friendly’ advertising methods like chatbots and push notifications, which are believed to be more effective and certainly more pleasant than things like banner ads.
Finally, content creators would be able to work more closely with advertisers and actually earn a fair amount of money for the work they do and the traffic they generate.
This kind of blockchain based model is smart, fair, and could change the online advertising space forever.