Just Stop It: Asking for my Date of Birth

Just Stop itIt’s interesting, government departments in many countries cannot ask for any personal information unless it is needed for the services they provide. Why can internet sites get away with this? Your date of birth is a critical piece of identity information, but it’s absolutely not necessary to register for a website.

A number of websites ask you your birth date as part of their registration process, including – as shown in the above example – Yahoo!

Yahoo! in this case tries to soften the blow by promising to provide me with a “better experience”. Let me translate what that means; they will guess based on your age which ads should be served to you. So if you’re in your thirties, and perhaps visit a baby clothes site, you’ll get baby ads, if you’re over forty five it’ll be hair-loss and menopause remedies. Get older and it’s incontinence pads. As if you couldn’t search for such products without their help.

In my case I lie, I have a birth date that I use as my “internet birthday”. Which means I’ll get the incontinence pad ads a little late.

Ad Blocking

We’ve all become very used to having access to a massive amount of content – news, videos, blogs, images – for free via the internet.

The consequence has been that a number of those content providers have lost advertiser revenue, which in the long term jeopardises our access to “free” content. Ad blockers were a recurring topic at the Web Summit last year and as one content provider said “we thought we had a deal”, meaning that we all understood that the free content came with ads.

I should insert a personal disclaimer here; I use an ad blocker. I didn’t for a long time but I got frustrated with the increasingly intrusive ads, particularly fly-over ads, large header ads forcing me to scroll (esp on my tiny laptop) and the video autoplays that make me jump out of my skin if I have the sound on.

Turn off your adblocker – please

Content providers are starting to fight back, asking you to turn off your adblocker.

Forbes now invites you to turn off the adblocker to access their “ad-light” experience, which is for 30 days and still includes a lot of ads.

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The Atlantic is more specific, asking you to disable it or take up a print (with digital options) subscription.

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The Guardian asks you to become a supporter, pushing the case for independent journalism; “your financial contribution will support our independence and our award-winning journalism”.

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TED has come to a somewhat different solution, you’ll still get an ad if you use ad-blocker, but it’ll be for a TED product.

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Other Ways Publishers Fight Back

Whitelisting

Some companies have asked visitors to whitelist their site, but a quick check with the non-technical people in my circle indicates they have no idea how to do this, and there’s some data reported that fewer than 1% of people take this option.

Native advertising 

Native advertising refers to content that matches the website or platform that it’s on, it often has an indication somewhere on it that the content is sponsored. Because this looks so much like content from the site it most often survives the adblocker’s filters.

Acceptable Ads Program

You can “pay to play“, one of the most commonly used adblockers will program their filters to allow non-intrusive ads to survive the adblock filters.

We’re all addicted to free content, subscribing only to the most loved publishers if at all. Since it costs money to create content it’s not unreasonable for those content platforms to look for revenue by subscription or by ads. As long as we retain the expectation of free content we can expect content creators to continue trying to serve us ads, while we – annoyed by the volume of ads – continue trying to block them. The days of free content may soon be over.

Image: Wall via pixabay