Must we dig into the self-evident fact that corporations and marketers are greedy and generally willing to do anything to take your money? While particular individuals might own up to certain ethical barriers, you don’t get an MBA without absorbing a certain amount of mercenary spirit. So it goes without saying that they are eager to gain full control of every encounter with consumers to prevent anything that resembles sales resistance. Manipulation takes a thousand different faces, but it’s nature never changes.
Advertising is inherently manipulative. Marketers argue to the contrary publicly, but their training materials belie that; anyone who has worked in sales can tell you that. Those who work in credit and collections are even worse. You could wear out words like “liar” and “deception,” along with “rip-off” and so forth. I know this from first-hand experience working both sides of the battle. It was the same working among professional clergy and in law enforcement; we were told there were contexts when we didn’t have to reveal the facts. Consumers instinctively know the difference between “here’s what I can offer” versus “you really need this.”
In general, advertisers can be categorized as liars, cheats and sometimes thieves. They are not good people, as a whole. We have to put up with them because it’s simply not possible to just make for ourselves everything we are likely to want to use or consume, but there’s no moral reason at all to take them seriously.
Given that the vast majority of those with any measure of discretionary income spend time on the Internet, no one is surprised that the worst forms of advertising are there. And on the Internet, advertising is doubly evil because too many ads mask some of the worst of evil human behavior: foisting malware onto our devices. The legal term is “theft by conversion“:
Theft by conversion occurs when someone wrongfully uses property or funds of another for their own purposes.
To ad insult to injury, malware slingers often take control over your system to assault your eyeballs with even more advertising.
As previously noted, we might be willing to tolerate a certain amount of advertising, but marketers as a whole never take “no” for an answer. There is never enough; they would be quite happy if you were unable to give one second of your attention to anything else. And to the degree they can simply displace so called “content,” they’ll do it with gusto. For them, the Internet serves no other purpose than smearing their shit on our eyeballs.
And who hasn’t read somewhere by now that marketers have long ago shifted over into tracking and profiling in the most invasive and intrusive ways the private lives of Internet users on the proposition that they can target your browser with ads more focused on your known habits. They know that you are less likely to ignore ads about stuff that you actually do. And increasingly, they believe they have a divine mandate to intrude on your privacy that way. Of course, their god is Mammon, which is just a step away from Moloch. They have no morals.
Further, this lying-malware-tracking wickedness has gotten progressively worse. It’s not just advertising, but these people have been using money and laws to leverage their way into the very ecosystem of human interaction with the Internet. Right this moment, major browser software projects are stepping closer and closer to taking all user controls away and giving them to marketers. This isn’t just immoral in the traditional sense, but it violates the very nature of networking itself. Once again, allow me to recommend you read World of Ends. The whole assumption behind networking is voluntary agreement on the protocols so that every single device connected is a “peer,” an equal participant in a voluntary virtual association.
It gets worse. In case you didn’t know it, major corporations have been trying very hard to twist arms at the various meetings of the boards and associations that help to organize the protocols of the Internet. The corporate demands are to make things less equal, to grant advertisers the authority to force users in ways that are wholly unconscionable. Until recently, this didn’t get very far, simply because the people most knowledgeable of the protocols are fiercely defensive of such efforts. But in the past few years they have begun to surrender by small increments. Meanwhile, they already own the three major browser projects. Microsoft Internet Explorer/Edge is already a corporate product built into the monopoly OS. Users have never had less control over Windows browsers than they do now, and it gets steadily worse. Google Chrome is one giant bait and switch, staring out nice and user friendly, but now with so many sneaky secret ways to sell you out that it’s just astonishing. And it also gets progressively anti-user. Just recently the Mozilla Project has taken that same path.
Our only hope is the cranky independence of a shrinking and aging hacker culture that includes a lot of white hats. But as protocols get more and more complicated, their ability to code and maintain fully independent browsers is slipping fast. There are some decent efforts to craft add-ons and extensions to browsers that defang the worst of these betrayals in the major browsers, but the corporate browser developers are working hard to disable such things.
Yes, there is a vast conspiracy and you need to be aware of it. The arms race will bounce back and forth. There will always be a few companies that would rather make their money by offering fair value, but have you notice how often their projects and companies are bought up by the big corporations with no conscience? There aren’t that many good guys out there. I’m doing my best to keep track of them and taking advantage of their stuff, but the pool of independent full-service web browsers is shrinking fast. What’s left is that I can advise you on ways to avoid trusting the scumbags.
Meanwhile, we dare not forget that governments are in on this game, too. The new age of exposure didn’t start with Edward Snowden, but he sure pushed it along. Here in the US, we’ve had Congressmen already propose forcing consumers to use one or two commercially produced operating systems, while at the same time demanding that those operating systems have huge, wide open back doors for government snooping and control. Has anybody noticed how far this war has progressed via cellphone operating systems? Not by legislation, but the willing cooperation of cellphone service providers. I’ve already heard the same congressional folks making noise about the need to push the public over to cellphones and tablets, and making PCs obsolete. Yes, they’ve actually been talking about that. They salivate over the means to oppression.
This is my calling; I’m keeping an eye on these things. I’m hardly alone, but I have to admit it looks like we are losing this war in the long term.