Almost 200,000,000 internet users are blocking ads. This number has been growing year over year and will likely continue doing so. I am one of these users. I've been blocking ads for years. The reason is not that I hate seeing advertisements, It's that I'm sick of being followed around the internet.
It's a wonder some people don't realize this. Have you ever google something and found you started seeing the same ads over and over again? Well that is because you are being followed by all the major ad networks. Think of them as a creepy dude following you around, looking over your shoulder as much as possible. Trying to get every little tiny bit of data about you.
But why? How did this happen?
Google was one of the first companies to perfect this tracking into a business model. Google was the greatest search engine of its time, but that does not make a penny for the company. What does create revenue are ads. Google realized that if you know what a person searches for, you can show them paid ads for what they are looking for. This does not stop at search results. Google's ad network is large and is in use almost everywhere.
A friend of mine learned this the hard way. When he was shopping for engagement rings he googled for local retailers, designs, etc. At the time he and girlfriend shared a computer. The ads shown on the computer quickly changed: engagement rings, wedding planning ads, diamond vendors. Luckily she never noticed, but he was noticing and praying the surprise would not be ruined!
Google has taken this much further. Google scans every bit of data about you it can get it's hands on. Got a gmail account? They scan that. Watch videos on YouTube? That's in the data. Use Google+?.... just kidding no one uses Google+. Google packs every little bit they can about you into your profile. Even data about the pages they already showed ads to you on, even if those are not google sites!
While Google was the first to perfect user tracking into a business model, Facebook is the new king.
The crazy thing about Facebook is that we willingly give them tons of data. Age, sex, likes, friends, posts. They pair this will tracking similar to google. This builds the perfect profiles to advertise too. Want to target 20 something males who are single and like cars? How about 30 something females with no children who like romantic comedies and jazz? Facebook has the data to target like this, and it is us who gave it to them willingly.
So what can we do?
Not much sadly. There is no good way to block only targeted ads without blocking everything. If you keep using Facebook, Google and other services you should be aware on what they are doing with your data. You can install ad blockers or tracker blockers. Maybe if enough of us refuse to be tracked we can force these companies to stop following us.
You stop following me and I'll turn off my ad blocker.