back to article Your data's auctioned off up to 987 times a day, NGO reports

The average American has their personal information shared in an online ad bidding war 747 times a day. For the average EU citizen, that number is 376 times a day. In one year, 178 trillion instances of the same bidding war happen online in the US and EU. That's according to data shared by the Irish Council on Civil Liberties …

  1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Free Internet

    ... that pays for a free internet..

    Now, that's not true, is it? We simply pay no money at the time of usage but it is not free in the medium to long term..

    We pay with our data which is intended to benefit the company that acquired it.

    This usage must have downstream effects which are not to our benefit, otherwise companies would not have paid good money for it.

    It has a value for a reason and we pay for that down the line.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Free Internet

      As a consumer you pay for each and every cent/penny of advertising spend, on absolutely anything you purchase.

      There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, even in advertising.

      1. Kane Silver badge

        Re: Free Internet

        "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, even in advertising."

        Unless you work in a sandwich shop

    2. Shepard

      Re: Free Internet

      Many of us would gladly pay content producers a reasonable monthly fee if they offered such an option insread of ads and if they produced higb quality content.

      Instead each page is laden with 50+ 3rd party obfuscated javascripts doing God knows what in the background, and most of the content published on internet isn't worth the electricity involved in serving it.

      By the way, they aren't paying for my CPU cycles and electricity which their website uses while runing its code on my client machine instead of on their server.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        Re: Free Internet

        .. nor the mobile data wasted downloading all this junk with phone users..

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: Free Internet

      Your logic is incomplete. There is no self-evident reason why the usage of data by third parties must be detrimental to us.

      We're all agreed, we all pay for the "free" Internet. What this article is about is the mechanism by which that payment is made, collected and monetised.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Free Internet

        I think it's more about the total lack of options and/or awareness that this is happening.

  2. Scott Broukell

    Question: Is my personal information kept private on-line?

    Answer: Yes, your personal information is kept private on-line. It is harvested, stored, analysed and monetised by private companies for private profit and the benefit of private investors. Happy now?

    1. Halfmad

      As an added bonus.

      For your added benefit we also fingerprint your activity, device and track your usage all over the internet even when someone else uses your device we help you by attributing that use to you as well.

      You are welcome.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: As an added bonus.

        I suspect, based on the SPAM emails that the mail server gets all the time to non-existent email addresses, that this high data number indicates that the people selling the data are also inventing the data. If they have 10,000 datasets to sell, then they are adding a nice proportion to boost the sale.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Modern Language.

      I think the solution is contained in the title-

      Your data's auctioned off up to 987 times a day

      Normally in an auction, I place an item for sale. If it sells above any reserve, I get the proceeds minus auctiioneer's fees & taxes.

      The Internet, of course, does things differently. So when my data is auctioned off, even though it's 'mine', I get none of the proceeds. It'd be kinda like me wandering into Google's offices, or exec's homes and auctioning off their property. Which kinda happens, ie taking stuff to flog on Ebay, but that's typically considered theft.

      So to normalise things, a simple solution would be to pay me whenever my personal property (properties, or metadata) is flogged off. I should be able to set a reserve, say $1m, or 1 bitcoin. Or just a standard auction fee of say $10 every time my properties are flogged off.

      Simple really. Well, other than potential tax implications. Regulators could start with a $10 fee, and maybe reduce it to $5 or even $1, or just let data subjects set their own price.

  3. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Free internet

    Last time I looked I paid for my service above and beyond my basic telephone line therefore that comment is fundamentally incorrect.

    If it were true, can I please have the specification and cost of a basic paid-for service option that provides a simple tick box that I have to *uncheck* (as per privacy regulations) to not include such personal data slurping?

    1. sreynolds

      Re: Free internet

      Oh no, you pay for that. You pay to look, but your privacy is flogged like some ho is soho.You have no control over that.

    2. SImon Hobson

      Re: Free internet

      I think you're missing the point that you pay for your end of the bit pipe, and your ISP pays some of that to the people who run big fat bit pipes around the world.

      What you haven't paid anything towards is anyone else's connection to the bit pipes - and that includes those serving up web pages etc. Your argument is a bit like buying a car (talking UK here) and paying your taxes - then complaining that the ferry company wants paying to carry your car across the channel, and the French want to charge you for using their roads.

      I agree with the others, and the bit right at the end of the article. A lot of what people expect to get "for free" is currently paid for through advertising (and the privacy invasions that make it more lucrative) as there's no viable alternative at the moment.

      I do actually pay to certain services I use - even though some of them are usable without. But the ones where the choice is offered, and the value is enough to make separate subscriptions viable, are a very small minority.

  4. Andy Non

    I wonder how much advertisers pay for their ads that are filtered out by my ad-blocker?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

      1. UCAP Silver badge

        There are always birds and animals around to hear it, and even if they are absent there are plenty of bacteria, viruses and advertising executives lurking.

        1. fidodogbreath

          Hmm. The forest has falling trees, and also advertising executives. Seems like an opportunity for disruptive arboreal synergy.

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Of course it has ad execs. Haven't you ever heard of slime mold?

            1. Kane Silver badge

              "Of course it has ad execs. Haven't you ever heard of slime mold?"

              Now, steady on! That's a libellous slur against slime mold!

            2. ITMA Silver badge

              I've some slime mold here that would like a word with you - out the back where there will be no witnesses :)

      2. ITMA Silver badge

        If no one is around to see it, how do you know it fell?

        For that matter, how do you the tree or even the forest exists at all?

        It could all be a construct created by your subsconscious to keep your conscious "self" bythly unaware that it is not in control at all....

      3. Danny 2

        "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

        If you don't hear it then it's fallen on you. Nursery school philosophy. Is it a brown tree, or would someone else see it as blue?

        If you were lost in a forest and you didn't have a signal would somebody else track your phone? Well, they could. Last known position, last known direction, start the search there.

        I got lost in a forest on an outwards bound course when I was 14. No water, no food, but two pretty girls. Shamefully I did not try my best to evacuate us quickly, never mentioned my map and my compass, rather focussed on my sleeping bag. Some heroic divvy rescued us - them. Ach.

        You can fairly accurately estimate the age of an oak by measuring it's width about four feet high. But then that applies to me too.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Advertising is the greatest, close to the mark enterprise there is... well not very close to the mark... and still get paid! I once thought about advertising as a career... believe it or not it kept me up at night. What to do with all that money!

      I know the drill...

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "I wonder how much advertisers pay for their ads that are filtered out by my ad-blocker?"

      I would depend on how your ad blocker works. If your computer is doing the filtering by not displaying the ads, yes, they get paid. If the way you block the ads prevents them from being downloaded from the ad server, maybe not.

  5. Ashto5 Bronze badge

    Clicked my 1st advert link in a long time

    I clicked my 1st ad link in a very long time

    I did this in my phone

    The same ad now appears on

    My laptop

    My phone

    My works laptop

    My VM on my works laptop

    It is ridiculous as I now will NOT buy the t shirt on principal.

    It’s not really optional to have a system that says we will spam you to death or make an account and we will spam you to death but the spam might be a bit more relevant.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Clicked my 1st advert link in a long time

      The same ad now appears on

      yeah but ... so what? If it wasnt a Tshirt it'd be some other crap even less relevant.

      what have you lost?

      adverts for other junk?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Clicked my 1st advert link in a long time

      >>The same ad now appears on

      Hmmm, here in the U.S. I've never really had problems with online ads

      but... I run NoScript, VPN, AdBlock and "special" email/phone numbers ( valid alternate contact, I just rarely check either ).

      What I have noticed recently is an increase in phone calls to my cell phone, even though it is listed with the National Do Not Call Registry ( ).

      So... I'd REALLY like to know how that contact info was collected and who's selling it.

      One suspect is Verizon as I recently switched to that cell provider - not sure how to prove it though.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Clicked my 1st advert link in a long time

        "What I have noticed recently is an increase in phone calls to my cell phone, even though it is listed with the National Do Not Call Registry "

        The worst scammers use that list as a source of valid cell phone numbers. You can register your number on that list but nothing is done if you are on it or not.

  6. albegadeep

    Has anybody thought to…

    Total up the amount of energy that such “targeted” ads require beyond that needed for context-based ads? The data harvesting, storage, and auctions surely consume a huge amount of electricity yearly. Should include the extra power usage on user devices.

    Then estimate the carbon emissions. The environmental impact would be good ammunition for getting rid of this nonsense.

  7. albegadeep

    I have a game on my phone

    That I paid to not have ads. Apparently that doesn’t stop it from trying to communicate with a couple dozen ad networks on a second-by-second basis. Unfortunately for them, I have a firewall too.

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