Collaborative Ad-Tech Project to Improve the Future of the Web/Spatial Web

Hello Humane Tech Community!!

I currently am working on a high-profile project for one of the largest international advertising holding companies that I think would be great to get some input from members of this group on. The focus of the project is to address the future of the internet and our mixed reality digitized society in a way that the original internet revolution failed on in order to create a more “humanistic internet”- namely that we did not address the negative consequences of the digital age as they arose and thus the internet ecosystem became more designed around getting people to click on ads and collect data on them than it was around creating a genuinely positive ecosystem for people that provided regular value to people’s lives (and to us, this is largely at the fault of advertising and ad-tech companies). Our hypothesis is that the ad-tech industry (and specifically the agencies and brands) needs to address these issues proactively to avoid the future “mixed reality” world going down the same click-bait and data-crazy path that it is on, or else the rules governing this ecosystem will be written exclusively by politicians in reaction to headlines, which both advertisers and consumers will lose out on. The only viable future of the internet + AR/VR is to make it people/individual focused rather than brand focused if we all want to have a productive yet profitable ecosystem.

Therefore, I am looking to talk with anyone who believes they have a concrete product, idea, set of formal guidelines, or specific expertise around how to improve the social ecosystem of the internet, even if it is around a different aspect of future tech that is not specifically advertising related (you would be surprised how much of the world comes back to ad-tech because ad-tech manages most of the world’s data as many of you know). This could be a rare opportunity to get your ideas in front of global leaders in the advertising industry and help make a dent in changing the industry’s culture of putting profits over people. We are currently working on a project to change how the media is measured (ie. what determines success) so this could be a great chance to provide input on that as wlel. I can promise that anything you share will be attributed to you (if you want) and we will only share with others what you approve is ok to share.

Please let me know if you have any questions for me; I am an open book on this front. Very eager to hear from some of you, and if you feel you have a contact from outside this group that it would be good to talk to too, please pass the info along :). Thanks for being an awesome group of people!!

Thank you :slight_smile:

I am not the expert that you are looking for, but I have some small feedback.

Yes, the hyper reality :wink: … we want to avoid that. The current Wild-West ad-tech industry has led us to surveillance capitalism, massive privacy invasion and increasingly an erosion of our freedoms.

And the broader public is becoming aware of this. A kind of techlash is brewing, which may lead - among others - to government intervention. If I read the above correctly you are referring to the often touted ‘self-regulation’ so as to avoid actual regulation (and corresponding enforcement). The way you formulated “will be written exclusively by politicians in reaction to headlines” seems to infer you fear ‘bureaucratic overregulation’.

Imho you, and the entire ad-tech industry should be more honest here. We are far, far removed from any overregulation in this regard. It truly is a Wild-West situation now. Regulation is direly and urgently needed here, and - if you ask me - the more the better.

But that presents an opportunity where the ad-tech industry can be proactive and actually promote and embrace the sane levels of regulation that are minimally required. And in a honest way that normal people can understand and serves to regain their trust.

This works similarly to how Apple is promoting “privacy” as intrinsic to their business model. They can reap significant benefit and competitive advantage from this positioning, but after walking-the-walk that means they are now committed. If any of their privacy features is found to be just a marketing fad, they risk to suffer a big blowback from their consumer base.

In the future I’d like to see way less ad-based business models, and mostly disappearance of ‘free’ services where you pay with your PII. New business models, maybe based on micropayments, should be developed, and marketing activities must be more ethical. So that means ethical advertising, if you will. Some interesting information sources in this regard:

PS. I count myself among a large group of techies that is completely outraged about the current state of the web and actively promoting the technologies to improve or even rescue the internet. Many within this population are quite radical (ad-tech is The Devil) and are at the forefront of developing The Decentralized Web (fediverse, p2p et al) and great FOSS projects. I’d recommend learning more about the ethical design and small tech ideas propagated here.

PS2. Some more interesting (ethics) resources can be found on our Awesome Humane Tech page.

Thank you for responding, I really appreciate you putting together something thoughtful and sharing those articles/links too!

Yes, that hyper reality clip definitely demonstrates what we are trying to avoid and the Wild West ad-tech industry is what we are attempting to rein in as well as we are looking to provide a pipeline for privacy centric ideas from outside the immediate ad-tech community to flow into the ad agency community. From my standpoint, we certainly do need government regulation on this front and I a not worried about overregulation, I am more worried that it will come too late, will be built on retroactive analysis, and could be managed by politicians who at times have shown themselves to misunderstand the importance of the problem. I think the Ad-tech industry needs to do better, and specifically the ad agency world needs to do better (in parallel with a social movement that is being awakened), because it stands with the unique power to manage the financials of how the internet + data operates. I believe we stand at a somewhat unique time where we can proactively get out ahead of a spatial web/AI empowered world in terms of how the advertising business model determines its success, which will inevitably influence what the larger ecosystem evolves into. I want government regulation and I want it to profoundly change the landscape, but I also don’t believe we should wait for it to get started.

I think the part you are highlighting about Apple incorporating “privacy” into their business model is more in the vain of what the project’s goal is, although it is looking to incorporate it in a broader level in terms of how advertising and data is purchased, managed, used, and analyzed. The goal is to make the entire financial model more person centric rather than brand centric, with the notion that brands will benefit from a healthier more people-friendly ecosystem too. We are also looking to empower people to manage their own data and profit from it as some of the services in the links you provided highlight (and I believe is the micropayments you are talking about?).

I would love to talk to you more about your stances on ethical advertising, because yes, I do think we have some differences, but I also think we probably have a lot in common too. I understand many in this community are quite “radical” in regards to the ad-tech community, but I don’t think that is misplaced, so I would like to engage those people too. I think we need to do better, and I believe that happens through collaboration :slight_smile: .

Please let me know if you’d like to connect further over the phone and share some of your ideas, I have already learned a lot just from reading what you have shared/linked out too and I think I could learn a lot from your point of view.


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Hi Kris,

I think ad-supported and free has many virtues. The triumph of free over paid content has provided both a greater diversity and quantity of content and free access to all in the world without discrmination based on the ability or willingness to pay.

But advertising can be reformed and needs to be reformed. The current ad system seems to be built on a bad foundation built and controlled mainly by Google, and the system as we know is a nighmare for all parties involved. It’s impossible to fix something that is incomprehensible. If someone could rebuild the foundation of ad tech from scratch, that would be a good place to start.

Every ad and target page needs to be approved by a person, to meet very high quality standards. Those standards need to be really high.

Privacy is something neither ad tech or regulators can solve. The tighter regulators squeeze, the more it benefits the giant tech monopolies and the more people will profit from breaking the rules. All ad tech, publishers and apps currently break the rules but pretend not to, as there is no alternative whatsoever. In this sense the rules themselves are worse than lawlessness, not to mention they provide a false sense of security and are a distraction from finding a real solution.

To fix privacy would be to throw away the internet and all devices and start over. Somebody should do this, as starting over is probably the only solution and then once there is a parallel private universe we can let people choose which one they prefer and are willing to pay for.

The free temporary solution for all is ad and tracker blocking which should’t be discouraged but doesn’t work 100%.

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Thank you for the thought out response :). The part I am most intrigued by is the notion tied to how the rules of ad-tech that are currently in place present a sort of false security net where little is being done to protect privacy and avoid bad actors, yet many services and companies tout their ability to do so. Clearly the laws in place are heavily limited by actors/companies’ ability to game the system as well (good, bad, or neutral). I believe an important starting point in all of this is for advertisers to take greater responsibility in acknowledging this reality in the ecosystem.

As you said, advertising needs to be reformed. Its foundation was built on a model that barely considered consumer privacy, let alone the data capture and attention domination explosions we have seen. Its efforts to personalize the consumer experience have somewhat bastardized the idea of being unique by trying to bucket people into increasingly vague consumer segments. It is broken.

Where I differ though is in the idea that it needs to start over to improve itself. I believe in many regards there is no turning back to the days of the past, and even more so, the future of the spatial web will be on us within a decade. The need for ad-tech to become more ethical and consumer friendly is now and so change must come from as many corners of the ecosystem as it can.

In that regard, if fixing privacy is not possible under the current circumstances (ie. without starting from scratch), what do you believe would examples of best possible solutions/outcomes given the current state of the ad-tech ecosystem. Do you believe there are ways to improve without starting fresh if that were not an option? I would love to hear any more thoughts you have to share on the matter.



There are a number of good threads already in the forum which discuss this online advertising:

What can we do about a system which absolutely relies on invading people’s privacy? Any surveillance-based tech, not just advertising, must be dishonest and purvey that false sense of security. Nobody is saying, “we spy on people’s most private moments, and distribute your private life to anyone who’s willing to pay”. But that is what the industry is all about. How could advertisers possibly acknowledge this?

Very well said. But how can an industry which spies on people be reformed? I was thinking, it probably can’t. And if you think I’m pessimistic, just look at the present. While there are reforms to things like web browsers, overall do we see people enjoying more or less privacy? I see less and less privacy.

That’s why I think the system needs an overhaul. And a big one. There’s a huge opportunity for the next big technology to be systems which are built with privacy at the core. A new operating system could easily crush Android, because given the choice users would choose their own privacy.

Both the world’s most popular operating system and most poplar web browser are actually funded by spying on the people that use them. Both Android and Chrome were created specifically for this purpose, as surveillance systems first and what users think they are for second. Google spent billions on these, not out of generosity but out of the interest of spying on people and also to prevent people from even having the choice of privacy with Google in full control to shape the system to their advantage. As we know both operating systems and browsers are what enable this espionage in the first place. And these systems are built in a way that firstly gives Google as well as often Baidu (Chinese branded phones and even Samsung phones) a access to seeing everything we do, not to mention uncountable other companies, governments, criminals and more who all look in as well.

On to recreating online ads. I guess the way to do it would be for people to have completely secure, untraceable devices and internet connections, and then to spy on themselves! If people were to collect information about themselves, they could keep this information on their devices in a secure area and use it to request the most appropriate ads for themselves. In this system, all personal information and data from espionage would never leave that person’s own device.

Also another idea I had is that all ads impressions should be recorded in an open public database, including who is paying for the ad (the final payer, plus all intermediaries), the ad content, the page URL, the user location and time. This would cause advertisers to manually review all ads, have higher quality ads and would prevent many problems with scams and manipulation.

The best outcome is that people will be able to enjoy ad-supported services for free, no matter the ability or desire to pay, however at the cost of more and more spying on people, and also ever increasing distribution of personal information about us, our actions and of our secrets. We are already at the point where most things people do online are distributed to thousands of parties, to anyone willing to pay, and it is only getting worse.

I don’t see any possible solution except to stop all espionage at the user device / operating system / software level, which would require an recreation of all systems. In addition people would need to use proxies or some kind of system that jumbles their online activity with other people in order to stop espionage.

I’m sure this new system is a great business opportunity for anyone who wants to start the next tech unicorn with the main product: privacy. People with money would choose privacy over the current mess if they had a choice, and eventually advertisers and publishers (app and web) would be forced to accept the new private system in order to gain access to people with money.

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