digital world has been flooded with concerns in recent months over
the power of the giant tech companies, particularly Google and Facebook,
over the flow of information.
in America have expressed alarm, and in Europe, a leader of the
Brexit movement has accused Facebook of “doctoring” the news.
Congress has been told that the “digital ecosystem” that exists today is
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companies dominate the market. The privacy of internet users is under
assault. The revenue model that sustained journalism is broken. The ad
platforms are manipulated by foreign adversaries. Secrecy and complexity
are increasing as accountability is diminished,” said the Electronic
Privacy Information Center in a statement delivered to members of
would be foolish to imagine that the current model is sustainable.”
The statement was
delivered to members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Digital Commerce & Consumer Protection in connection
with a hearing on the “ecosystem.”
letter explained: “Today’s digital advertising techniques are very
different from traditional advertising models. In the analog world,
consumers could readily identify the placement of an ad, the source and
its purpose. There was little need for advertisers to gather personal
data from users. Perhaps most critically, advertising supported
editorial content. Advertising made possible the publication of daily
news. Traditional advertising sustained a healthy ecosystem that also
made possible the production of news without government subsidy. Much of
that has changed,” the letter said.
are many problems today with the Digital Advertising Ecosystems –
profiling and tracking of internet users, increasing concentration of
providers (Google and Facebook), the loss of support for editorial
content, discriminatory practices and redlining, preferencing the
advertiser’s products over competitor’s, and political ads purchased by
foreign advertisers intended [to] undermine democratic elections.
didn’t have to be this way. More active regulation by the government
could have sustained digital advertising models that were good
advertisers and businesses, and good also for consumers, journalism, and
letter explained an early system, called DoubleClick, protected
consumers’ privacy, but it later was acquired by Google, and the Federal
Trade Commission approved the deal despite EPIC warnings about one
company having “access to more information about the internet activities
of consumers than any other company in the world.”
of what we predicted happened. Google broke many of the agreements to
protect privacy that DoubleClick had established,” the group’s letter
next “great damage” was done when Google moved from contextual
advertising to behavioral advertising.
advertising simple shows products in newspapers or on the web. But
behavioral advertising “targets the consumer directly. It relies on deep
profiles. It provides no benefit to content providers, such as news
organizations. In fact, the … model attacks the revenue model that has
sustained news organizations in the United States since the early days.”
system uses those algorithms that consider age, race, religion,
nationality and other factors.
letter says while advertising should provide consumers with information
about products, Google and Facebook now “are providing advertisers
information about consumers who have become the product.