Bixy’s Vision: How to Kill Tracking and Bad Ads
It’s no secret that your web surfing habits are being tracked…heavily…like pretty much everything you click on, search or say online. It’s crazy. Most Gen Y’s accept this reality and most Baby Boomers are completely freaked out. Gen X is somewhere in between. Of course, these are generalizations, but you get the point.
Here’s the crazy part: even when they say they aren’t tracking you, THEY’RE. STILL. TRACKING. YOU. They [websites and ad technologies] pretend they aren’t tracking you by saying they’re just using the information to deliver a better user experience. This, of course, is complete nonsense. They do study the site analytics to improve their services but more importantly (to them), they use the data to make money.
According to University of Pennsylvania privacy researcher Tim Libert, 90 percent of websites give out your web history and data unbeknownst to you. Libert also said 60 percent of all websites use third party cookies to track your browsing history.
In short, your data is being used to target ads. What’s to prevent this data from being hacked and tied back to you personally? To better understand how data is used, let’s examine how the ad industry currently defines the 3 types of data:
- 1st party data is collected by businesses when you’re on their website or you’re their customer. For example, let’s say you visit the website for Company X and then you start seeing ads from Company X. That’s called “retargeting” and it uses 1st party data.
- 2nd party data is when companies share your 1st party data with each other. For example, Companies A and B both target the same kinds of users (e.g. Gen Y cat lovers) but they don’t compete with each other. Company A sells cat food and Company B sells cat toys. In this example, you might go to Company B’s website to shop for cat toys and then start seeing ads for Company A’s cat food.
- 3rd party data is when you’re on a content publisher’s website (e.g. New York Times, Buzzfeed) and an ad technology is embedded into the site that drops tracking cookies onto your computer. This provides your web surfing behavior to the ad technology company (many of whom you’ve never heard of before). These cookies can track the websites you visit, the things you click, the words you type, your social data, where your mouse hovers…ya know…basically EVERYTHING. The ad tech company then analyzes your behavior to try and guess which ads you might like to see. Of course, almost no one wants to see or click on ads, so all of their crazy tracking is basically meaningless. Again, what would happen if this data got hacked and tied back to you? Hmmm…yikes.
We think 3rd party cookies should be illegal unless the website prominently displays the following data within the footer of the site:
- Data collector (ad tech company) name
- Data collector logo
- How the information is used
- Why the information is necessary
In the United States, there are little to no regulations. In Europe, new tracking laws are much more progressive, with the primary aim of protecting consumers and their data. Websites must explicitly state they are tracking you, and why they are using the tracking technologies. The regulations also require a website to acquire a user’s consent before tracking, and give the users the option to refuse this tracking. Awesome, right?
Instead of today’s “track everything” approach, Bixy believes that consumers should be in complete control over the information shared with ad technology companies. At Bixy, we don’t track which websites you visit, what you say online, who you know, where your mouse is, where you click, etc. The only information we use is data you provide to us: your favorite brands, shopping categories of interest, the rewards you receive while using Bixy, etc. Not only is this approach infinitely more ethical, it’s also more accurate. We show you rewards for things you actually want.
At Bixy, we believe that this level of transparency will have the following benefits:
- The consumer’s information will be better protected.
- Consumer trust of and engagement with ads will dramatically improve because they’re personalized and rewarding.
- Advertisers will see a tremendous boost in performance of their ad campaigns.
- Publishers will see their revenues rise as advertisers are willing to pay more for ads that actually drive business results.
Finally, we believe the standard industry definitions should change and it isn’t just semantics. These definitions cut to the core of how ad technologies work. By 2020, we’d like to see the following massive shift:
- 1st party data should only include advertising preferences that you directly control.
- 2nd party data should only include services that you’ve explicitly linked to your advertising profile with the aim of improving the ads you see across the web. You should be able to revoke control by any 2nd party at any time (without shenanigans).
- 3rd party data should continue to refer to tracking data collected by companies unbeknownst to you. As mentioned above, this should be illegal unless explicitly announced by the site. (This is the kind of data we want to eradicate.)
Websites should be able to capture your interactions with the site but they shouldn’t be able to share the data with other companies without your specific approval.
So, that’s our vision for the future of data collection online and we’re busting our tails to make this happen by 2020. We need the help of consumers everywhere to demand this change. Of course, our competitors will argue that pushing for this change is in our best interest. Yes, it is, but we’d welcome 20 ethical competitors to Bixy and the end to 100’s unethical competitors.
By 2020, you should never see a bad ad online again.