Vivaldi Co-Founder: Advertisers ‘Stole the Internet From Us’
Vivaldi is a browser founded by Opera co-founder Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner and launched in 2016 with a heavy focus on privacy and customizations. As someone who has worked on the internet since 1992, Tetzchner has a lot of thoughts on the state of the internet in 2023, especially when it comes to advertising. XDA spoke with Tetzchner at this year’s Mobile World Congress, and it’s clear to him that advertisers “stole the internet from us.” From the report: For the unfamiliar, Android’s Privacy Sandbox can track users by creating an offline profile on them and show relevant advertisements based on that. It’s a multi-year initiative to introduce more private advertising solutions to end-users and is made possible thanks to the Topics API and FLEDGE. Its goal is to prioritize user privacy by default but still maintain the mobile ecosystem dependent on advertising to support free and ad-supported apps. This is an exclusive-to-Android solution that uses a standalone SDK, separate from the rest of the application code, with the aim of eventually replacing Ad ID. However, Tetzchner doesn’t see a difference between standard tracking and companies using the Topics API.

“For us, how you technically do the tracking, you can say it’s a little bit better to do it client-side than server-side, but for me, the idea that your browser is building a profile on you… No, no, no, that’s wrong. That’s just wrong,” he tells me. It’s not quite where the data goes that seems to bother him the most, but what that data can be used to achieve. He mentions how this data can be used to influence how people vote, a la Cambridge Analytica. Whether that data is on your device or not is irrelevant; political advertisements will still appear regardless. “They stole the internet from us”, he says of advertisers. “The internet is supposed to be open and free, and you shouldn’t be afraid of being monitored. The idea that you are collecting data to provide ads… I can understand having access to a lot of data to provide a service, but that’s not the same as profiling your users.”

[…] Tetzchner is deeply disheartened with the state of it. In fact, he believes the current state of advertising is less profitable for sites now than it was before widespread tracking was in place. He mentions “normal ads,” which you may see in a magazine or on TV, were the standard for about a decade, even on the internet. “A lot of sites were more profitable, and people were less worried about having to block ads. The ads were normal, it was kind of like what you were seeing if you were going and reading a magazine. There were ads, but they weren’t following you.” He points out that paywalls have become commonplace across the internet when that wasn’t the case 15 years ago. “How is it then that we needed the change that actually created that situation?” he asks. He argues that advertisements are less profitable as a whole thanks to widespread tracking. Advertisers previously paid more because they knew exactly where their advertisements were going. Now with algorithms and Google Ads, not everything is high quality, even if those algorithms try to scan pages for quality content.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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