back to article Europe bans Meta from using personal data to target ads

European officials have told Ireland's privacy watchdog to impose a ban on Meta's processing of personal data for behavioral advertising throughout the European single market within the next two weeks. The decision follows a request in September from Norway's Data Protection Authority, Datatilsynet, that the European Data …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't use personal data / don't advertise stuff to kids. So how will Meta achieve that?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Poorly

      See title

  2. CJ_C

    Consent??

    I have not consented to ads related to my searches being shown to my wife on her Facebook account, presumably because I have no Facebook account. And I am not alone. Facebook has no f**king idea about how to process personal information properly, and doesn't care.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Consent??

      > Facebook has no f**king idea about how to process personal information properly, and doesn't care.

      I suspect they do have an idea, but that idea is fractionally less profitable.

      How many EU users? 5 years of 4% turnover please - with a complete ban on operating until it's paid into escrow.

  3. herman
    Devil

    And nothing was lost

    Behavioral ads likely don’t work nearly as well as claimed anyway.

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: And nothing was lost

      They work perfectly fine, don't they? I mean, I order a vacuum cleaner and for the next seven months I receive tons of ads for vacuum cleaners. Brilliant.

      1. Justthefacts Silver badge

        Re: And nothing was lost

        You understand how the economy has to work if *non* targeted ads are the only ones, right? For the next….lifetime….you receive tons of ads for vacuum cleaners, whether or not you bought one. But also for skateboards, and tampons, and old-man-slippers, and Old Spice. You can work out exactly how many ads each person needs to see, to match economic activity. Average click-through rate on targeted ads, now, is 3%, average conversion rate of clicks is 3%. 3% of 3% views equals one sold item. That’s what it is.

        Average targeting is about 400k people out of UK. 40M targetable people. Therefore, ratio of average items bought to ads shown drops to 1 in 90,000. Ok, *some* of the non-targeted people might buy, but not really very many. Let’s be generous, 1 in 50,000.

        So, in your brave new world, there are only two possible outcomes, mathematically. Either the *total* amount of ads people are shown increases by 50x. Or the amount of stuff they buy drops by 50x. Since you don’t seem to want the first one, you’ve just voted for a drop in GDP by 50x. I mean, that’s fine if that’s the tradeoff you want to make, our great-grandparents generation would still see that level of economic activity as streets-paved-with-gold scenario. But at the end of the day, you’re still shitting out the back door in an unheated khazi in the winter, like people did 100 years ago.

        Obvious point, why wasn’t it like that in 2000 before targeted internet ads? Because ads *were* targeted, and still are: ads on TV after the watershed, ads on childrens TV, ads in “Woman and Home” and ads in “Fishing Monthly”. Ads in the rundown bus-shelter near the chippie for payday loans…and ads for jet set holidays to the Cayman Islands up in lights on Trafalgar Square. But that world doesn’t exist any more. This is your world.

        1. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

          Re: And nothing was lost

          "Because ads *were* targeted, and still are:..."

          I suppose the obvious point is that the ads are targeted to the subject rather than the individual. All Fishing Monthly readers see the same ads, without either the advertiser or the publication knowing who the readers may be - unless they have a subscription, of course.

          It's a bit like the way AdSense used to work - ads based on site content rather than visitor interests. That seemed to work well enough for websites, and could probably be made to work in Facebook groups.

          I hardly ever use Facebook, and don't really care how they target ads since I rarely see them. But it can't be efficient to keep showing ads for something you've already bought. Surely it would be more sensible to show ads for hoover bags for the next six months?

          It will be interesting to what meta does about this. Unlike his Muskiness, I can't really see them being capricious enough to pull out of the EU market, but the resulting shit storm if they did would be hilarious. However would people cope???

        2. Rikki Tikki Bronze badge

          Re: And nothing was lost

          @Justthefacts

          While recognising that discussing economics here is futile, I'm a glutton for punishment ...

          No, stopping targetted advertising won't cause GDP to drop by 50 times as you seem to suggest - UK GDP has been on a reasonably steady upward trend since the war*, even before the internet was a thing.

          I would anticipate that it would have somewhere between sod all and not very much impact - people will still buy stuff that they need/want and advertisers will still incorporate their advertising costs in the price of their products.

          Yes, our lives are a lot more comfortable now than the 1920s, or even the 1960s: a lot of that, though is due to technological advances and infrastructure investment, rather than advertising or not.

          *Barring shocks like the GFC and COVID. But even at the peak of COVID, GDP dropped buy less than 20%, and recovered most of that in only a few months.

        3. Falmari Silver badge

          Re: And nothing was lost

          @Justthefacts "So, in your brave new world, there are only two possible outcomes, mathematically. Either the *total* amount of ads people are shown increases by 50x. Or the amount of stuff they buy drops by 50x. Since you don’t seem to want the first one, you’ve just voted for a drop in GDP by 50x."

          So you are saying that the main economic driver of GDP is the volume of ads shown. In other words GDP is directly proportional to ads show, and all you would need to do to double GDP is to double the volume of ads.

          Ads don't really drive how much we spend, because our spending is limited by our disposable income. Ads influence what we spend our disposable income on and with whom, not how much of it we spend. So buy our washing powder not our competitors, buy our computer not theirs, shop with us not with our rivals etc.

          Obvious point we don't need targeted ads that require collecting data to profile and target us as Facebook does, just do ads as they were pre 2000 and place ads based on site content.

          1. Justthefacts Silver badge

            Re: And nothing was lost

            “Ads don’t drive how much we spend”.

            How do you know you “need” washing powder? What a terrible example for your case. Your great-grandparents didn’t “need” washing powder, they beat clothes through a mangle. Cleaning products were literally the first great achievement of the early advertising industry around the turn of the last century. That’s how Lord Leverhulme made his money, marketing pre-wrapped soap bars. Adverts for Sunlight Soap were everywhere. Port Sunlight, and eventually Unilever were built on adverts. Before then, barely any cleaning products industry existed. Soap existed, sold a very little down the market, but it was literally a cottage industry. A couple decades later Persil “invented laundry powder”. They didn’t of course, what they invented was the laundry powder advert.

            “place ads based on site content.” That’s precisely what *Facebook and Instagram* do. Their site content *is* whatever customer interests are revealed by profiling on their platform, with feedback. If you don’t scroll Insta, you don’t see Instagram ads, simple as that. I’ve not seen a single poster on this forum show any understanding of this, even though they are supposed to know “how the internet works”.

            I think you are confusing “targeted ads” with 3rd party ads on news/forum websites, aka “native ads”. The top names in native ads are Outbrain and Taboola. Even Google Display Network doesn’t come close to either of them. Maybe Metro Media or somebody? I mean, yes Facebook does have *some* wholesale outlet that way, but it’s a fingernail sliver of their business and they don’t figure in the top 10 native ads businesses. Literally even Yahoo and Bing are *both* hugely larger than Meta in the native ads space.

            1. mpi Silver badge

              Re: And nothing was lost

              > How do you know you “need” washing powder?

              Because I like to have clean clothes. And I didn't learn about the existence of washing powder from the TV ads of my childhood, I learned about it the same way I learned that Trees exist. And even if I didn't, untargeted ads got the word out about new things long before the internet existed.

              I buy washing powder because it fulfills a need I have. Ads don't influence whether or not I buy washing powder, they influence what brand of washing powder I get. And they are just one fact in that decision. If they put bland grey boxes of washing powder in the supermarket nearest to me, with no brand on them, just the words

              "WASHING POWDER"
              stenciled on, at a reasonable price, and they are slightly easier to reach in the shelves than the ones whos name blasts into my face from the TV, I will likely walk home with the bland grey box of no-name washing powder.

              So no, ads are not a primary driver of how much I spend. Disposable income and needs are.

              > Their site content *is* whatever customer interests are revealed by profiling on their platform

              That isn't "site content". Site content is targeting ads by media consumed. They are essentially chosen directly by the user, at the point in time he consumes the medium, and based on the general context of the medium, not the context of the user. That's a far cry from serving ads based on users recorded and analyzed activity, sometimes over incredibly long timeframes, including the interests of OTHER users they think are connected with the one they serve the ad.

              In short: I am completely fine with seeing ads for blazing fast GPUs when I visit a tech blog. I am not fine with seeing adds for plant-fertilizer on that same page, because my girlfriend talked about gardening on some "social" media.

              1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                Re: And nothing was lost

                “Washing Powder stenciled on, at a reasonable price”

                If you look carefully, you’ll find that your “unbranded” washing powder is not unbranded at all. It’s specifically branded to *look cheap*, because the manufacturers have analysed a market segments containing people who “always buy the cheapest”, and reach for it first on the shelf. And now you have to ask yourself - how do you know what a cheap box looks like? Because you have, in your life been presented with *a lot* of marketing, highly targeted to “the man who always wants to believe he bought the cheapest item”, by showing you examples of “a cheap box” so you will automatically pick it. You are in a marketing niche, a profitable one, and one marketeers spend a lot of money cultivating. Sorry.

                You think these “cheap boxes” don’t have lots of marketing design? Here’s an experiment you can do. You have no marketing experience, right? Sit in a quiet room, and without reference to anything else, draw up a design for “a cheap box of washing powder”. Then show it to a friend, alongside the box you actually bought, and the box they bought. Don’t look at the next sentence until you do.You will immediately see two things: 1) Your design doesn’t look “cheap”, as if it “didn’t have any design”. It just looks like total shit, as if designed by a five-year-old 2) “Your” design isn’t your design. It’s a poorly remembered version of what you normally buy, and mainly of the details have a surprising amount in common, and very different to their box.

                “Site content is targeting ads by media consumed. They are essentially chosen directly by the user, at the point in time he consumes the medium, and based on the general context of the medium, not the context of the user.” That’s just so wrong, it’s difficult to believe you understood the words as you wrote them. So you think, that when Instagram presents you a continuous scroll of photos, that you somehow have an infinitely large screen of all the photos they have, and you click on the ones you want? Of course not. They present you some random posts, you either scroll past them fast, or slowly showing attention, or click. Your actions are stored (you can’t browse Insta without logging in), and provide a user profiled context of the next posts to show you. Yes Insta shows you Friends post, but that’s a tiny fraction. Almost everything Insta shows you, is user-profiled discovery.

                I understand well, from what you’ve said, that you have no interest in what Insta has to offer, and loathe it with a passion. But a very large number of people, indeed very much enjoy what Insta offers - who are you to judge that they shouldn’t have it?

                1. jonathan keith

                  Re: And nothing was lost

                  I'm with Bill Hicks on this one.

                2. mpi Silver badge

                  Re: And nothing was lost

                  Aaaand...what exactly in that text refutes my argument?

                  The argument is that it isn't ads that primarily determine HOW MUCH I buy. They determine, among many other factors WHAT I buy. Thus, my argument is, there is no direct correlation between the number of ads shown to me, and how much the economy as a whole will earn from me buying stuff.

                  The amount I buy depends on need and available income. Yes, ads may create need. No, they are not the only, nor the most important factor to create need. And we haven't even mentioned yet, that this is true for untargeted ads as well as targeted ones.

                  > who are you to judge that they shouldn’t have it?

                  Please show me where I did that, because I am pretty sure I never said people shouldn't have "social" media.

                  I believe that people should have the right to privacy, and that they should have full control of their data, wheter or not they use social media.

                  To me, "We want to serve you targeted ads!" is not a sufficient justification for the mass collection of peoples data. One among many other reasons for why I believe that, is the above argument showing why I don't think targeted ads to be a sufficiently important driver of a societies economic power to justify mass collection of peoples data.

                3. Cav Bronze badge

                  Re: And nothing was lost

                  Your logic, and understanding is bizarre and you say the other guy doesn't understand the words...

                  "“place ads based on site content.” That’s precisely what *Facebook and Instagram* do. Their site content *is* whatever customer interests are revealed by profiling on their platform".

                  You totally misunderstand what site content ads mean. Profiling is unnecessary with site content ads. If I go to a car Facebook group, I see car ads. If I go to a medical condition site, I might see ads about related medications. Facebook doesn't need to profile me to present these ads. It doesn't even have to know anything about me at all. It just serves ads related to the page\group\site NOT the user. Understand?

                  1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                    Re: And nothing was lost

                    It’s you who fail to understand. The majority of FB content presented, is *not* groups. That might be why you go there, but it isn’t most of what’s shown, nor is it how most people use it. Most people *scroll* through endless suggested content.

                    Fine if that’s not what you want, then find something else that does.

            2. katrinab Silver badge
              Megaphone

              Re: And nothing was lost

              "Their site content *is* whatever customer interests are revealed by profiling on their platform, with feedback."

              So why do I get loads of adverts for boyfriends and pregnancy testing kits when my profile very definitely screams lesbian?

              "Download our dating app, there's thousands of men in your area eager to get in touch with you".

              That makes me want to stay well clear of it.

              Buy this jacket to keep your boyfriend warm this winter.

              No thanks, that just makes the whole boyfriend thing even less appealing.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And nothing was lost

          Either the *total* amount of ads people are shown increases by 50x. Or the amount of stuff they buy drops by 50x.

          The amount of stuff I buy is primarily set by how much money I have, and not by how many advertisements I see. There is zero correlation between the number of ads I see, and my disposable income.

          If somehow they could make me spend more money than I have on %shit% instead of paying my rent, that would be a socially destructive outcome that should properly be discouraged.

          The simple fact is that only a small amount of advertising is needed to make the economy function by hoovering up all my disposable income.

          1. Dagg Silver badge
            Flame

            Re: And nothing was lost

            The amount of stuff I buy is primarily set by how much money I have, and not by how many advertisements I see. There is zero correlation between the number of ads I see, and my disposable income.

            Actually with me there is a strong correlation between the ads and the buy. Two many ads, LOUD ads, extreme in your faces piss me off and I will deliberately avoid buying any of the shit they are attempting to sell.

            1. CJ_C

              Re: And nothing was lost

              And I will not buy again from those that nag repeatedly for review...

            2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

              Re: And nothing was lost

              I think that's the missed point in all this. I'm surrounded by ads outside my PC; roadside billboards, ads in magazines, ads on trains, buses, taxis, airports, underground stations.... They are everywhere, they are mostly for stuff I don't want, they don't get in my way and they don't annoy me in the slightest. What the ad industry has done to the web is the equivalent of there being traffic lights every 1/4 mile on the road at which I have to stop and wait while a parade of billboard ads is dragged across the road in front of me. If I had a choice between giving them all my personal preferences and seeing non-intrusive ads or being completely private and having websites FUBB as advertisers try to ram ads up my nose I know which I'd prefer.

              1. Jedit Silver badge
                Stop

                "What the ad industry has done to the web..."

                I wouldn't describe it as traffic lights. Social media is more analogous to the pub; I go there to catch up with my friends sometimes. Facebook adverts are like someone coming up to you in the pub and interrupting your conversation to try and sell you something. You tell them to fuck off, but they keep pushing their tat on you. You go to the bar to complain, but the bar staff - who in this analogy are Facebook - don't do anything as the tat seller has slipped them a few quid to ignore him. (Before anyone says anything about blocks: Facebook will continue to show you the same "sponsored" ads for weeks on end even if you block the advertiser and hide all posts from their page.)

                If you are a woman you are probably already asking for Angela at this point.

                Anyway: the bar staff have ignored you and this person is still aggressively harassing you, so you call the police. But the police don't do anything either, because they're also Facebook. So what can you do? Well, the realistic response is that you smash your glass on the table and grind it into the bastard's eyes, because your personal safety is jeopardised.

                Oh, and you don't have "a choice between giving them all my personal preferences and seeing non-intrusive ads or being completely private and having websites FUBB as advertisers try to ram ads up my nose", because their adverts are intentionally intrusive and are rammed up your nose anyway. Your choice is between having your data sold in exchange for intrusive adverts, not having your data sold for slightly different intrusive adverts, or Option 3: stop using the platform.

                1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                  Re: "What the ad industry has done to the web..."

                  Excellent example. “I go [to the pub] to catch up with my friends sometimes”.

                  And do you buy a drink in this pub, so they can afford to provide the social space? You do? Then you support a subscription or entry fee model then…..in principle. So, all some company has to do, is provide a FB service with subscription model, and everyone will migrate there. Problem solved. Except…..companies have tried. People didn’t. Because people *routinely don’t act as they think they will*. They stay with the free-but-ads model, every time.

                  The reason why I say it’s such an excellent example, is that I’m old enough to have seen this very scenario play out in pubs and cafes many, many times. To great sadness. A club of people, maybe board gamers, or cyclists, or German speakers, “adopt” a pub or cafe as their own. The pub owner sees this as a good thing, bums on seats. Thing is, the boardgamers bring in loads of people, but not many pints of beer get sold. Often, the landlord is an enthusiast too, and it’s a great thing for Wednesday and Thursday night. So he doesn’t protest. And slowly. And slowly. Eventually the landlord gives up his license and the pub closes, because he can’t make a living doing it. Every. Damn. Time.

                  1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

                    Re: "What the ad industry has done to the web..."

                    Pubs didn't start by giving away free beer to sell something else to someone else. Value is defined by the person paying, not the person charging. I value the pub, the service it provides and the drinks it sells and even though the beer is 3 times as expensive as the supermarket it's not hit a price above the value I place on it, so I don't mind paying for it. If people aren't willing to pay for ad-free Facebook, Twitter, news sites or whatever than that's the fault of the service providers who overvalue their offering after cheapening it by giving it away. It might work for heroin, but not social media. When I was commuting I used Twitter to get push notifications on the train service, but if they'd charged me a subscription fee then I'd have binned Twitter - it was useful, but not valuable (to me). I agree with you about paying your way and I do pay some subs - the Grauniad (I could use it free, but I value daily news) and a couple of apps, but I've never used Facebook, Instagram or anything similar and I haven't used Twitter since I stopped commuting about 5 years ago.

                    BTW - pubs in my town are closing because young people don't drink like I did - and still do, and for a couple of them it's only pub quizzes that are keeping them alive.

          2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: And nothing was lost

            I'm with you in general but would point out that many ads exists merely to inform which products and services exist and which companies provide them. So that, when it comes to making a decision you may already have been influenced.

            But the AIDA bullshit promulgated by the poster is just that: bullshit.

          3. Justthefacts Silver badge

            Re: And nothing was lost

            I guess that leaves us with two possibilities. Either, everyone is just exactly like you. Then if the advertising industry slashed its spend by 50% (let alone even more!), total industry sales would be entirely unaffected. So, it’s all wasted, and every company on earth could just save 20% of total retail revenue. We should go tell some companies, they’ll want to know.

            Alternatively you’re unique, or at least rare! Turns out that *you* are a free spirit and completely unaffected by advertising. It’s just the rest of the zombie sheeple who mindlessly buy stuff they see on ads.

            Out of interest, which of these do you think it is right?

        5. DS999 Silver badge

          So what?

          But also for skateboards, and tampons, and old-man-slippers, and Old Spice.

          And the problem is? The economy worked just fine before targeted advertising, you know. 50 years ago everyone was watching the same 4 TV channels (true in both the US and UK) and the ads were by necessity shotgun. When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s watching prime time TV shows I remember seeing TV ads for stuff like hair removal creams designed for women's legs or denture stuff to keep dentures in.

          Nair and Polygrip, that's how many times I saw those ads I still remember the brand names even today - brand names which probably no longer exist! I wasn't going to ever need let alone buy either of those products, but what difference would it have made if all I saw was ads for toys and sugar filled cereals like I saw Saturday morning when cartoons were on and they could target ads appropriate to my age? I wasn't going to get my parents to buy more any more toys than they already did, and I could only eat so much cereal.

          So today if I see ads for tampons and skateboards, the first of which I've never bought and the other I haven't owned/ridden in decades, so what? What if they show me more ads for things I might buy like OLED TVs and German sedans? I already bought the latter earlier this year so I won't be buying another car for years, and good news for advertisers I am in the market for a new TV but bad news for advertisers I'm only going to buy one no matter how many ads they show me.

          1. Rikki Tikki Bronze badge

            Re: So what?

            Come to Canberra ... since we are covered by regional tv networks (rather than the main coastal cities), the ads for fast food, gambling, alcohol, etc are frequently interspersed with those spruiking sheep drench, bull semen, farm sheds and tractors, among other things.

            While I'm not in the market for these latter products, I understand their importance for the region's economy, so don't object to the advertising.

          2. Justthefacts Silver badge

            Re: So what?

            That’s fine. And I said as much, I literally said exactly that. I just think people forgot what “the good old days” actually looked like. There was *a lot* of advertising, many, many times more than there is today. And specifically, that was necessary because it was much more shotgun, although partly demographics segmented.

            Fifty years ago, the average person watched *4 to 8 hours of TV per day*. Advertising density of about 1 in 5 was normal. People used to physically watch well over *an hour of ads per day*. And not in the corner of the screen, but filling the whole screen, and no way to click off to another site (because there really weren’t that many channels) - you just had to wait the five or seven minutes or so until the end of the ad break. This idea that there are more ads now, or that they are uniquely intrusive, is just *ludicrous*.

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: So what?

              In 1983 people watched how much TV per day? With two public service channels and two commercial ones? Certainly didn't come close to those numbers in our house and those around us.

              You suggest that the amount of advertising has remained constant, when, if you look at budgets, it's clear that it's just continued to increase. More channels (and longer broadcasting hours) just lowers the average price per minute / impression. And I suspect, that whichever the medium, the truism that 50% of advertising is wasted, we just don't know which 50%, continues to hold.

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                Re: So what?

                With modern "targeted" ads, I'm pretty sure that 98% of advertising is wasted.

                And 1-2% is actively destructive, as it results in people associating the brand or product with annoyance or with something they deeply despise - as the hair removal cream advert appears all the time or sits alongside The Real Nazi Party on Tw*tter.

              2. Justthefacts Silver badge

                Re: So what?

                In 1983, people watched on average 6-8 hours TV per day, depending on country. Look it up. You forget just how much demographic change has occurred. In 2020, in the USA, the average was still 4 hours! The attached link will explain why.

                https://www.statista.com/chart/15224/daily-tv-consumption-by-us-adults/

                1. Falmari Silver badge

                  Re: So what?

                  @Justthefacts "In 1983, people watched on average 6-8 hours TV per day, depending on country. Look it up."

                  I did look it up and in 1983 people watched less TV in the US than they do today. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/05/when-did-tv-watching-peak/561464/

                  That's an average per household not per individual which would of course be less.

                  I doubt the average for the UK was any more 4 than hours in 83. There was no real daytime TV the schedule was made up of repeats. Also unlike today there was a much larger pub culture so while you could once you have finished work start viewing TV at say 6PM many would go to the pub.

                  Hell in 83 I was 24 and in the pub every night with my mates and out clubbing on the weekends well the nights I was not working clubs as a DJ, I had no time for TV. That's a demographic that has changed, people spend a lot more time at home than than they did in the 80s.

            2. Jedit Silver badge
              FAIL

              "People used to physically watch well over *an hour of ads per day*."

              You might have. Most of us used the breaks to go to the lavatory or make a cup of tea, or talk about something else. And as soon as we got remote controls with a mute button, the sound was off during the commercials. The idea that we actually watched them is laughable.

            3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: So what?

              Advertising density of about 1 in 5 was normal

              When I was a kid I saw zero TV ads. Because my parents would only watch BBC channels and they don't carry ads (apart from BBC station headers).

              The one thing I despise about US TV (of which I see very little - mostly only NFL coverage) is the sheer quantity and banality of the adverts. In civilised countries, the ratio of ads to content is regulated in order to ensure that TV doesn't just become a long series of ads interspersed with content.

              They even have slide-over ads where the game goes on but an advert will take over 60% of the screen. Sky TV are, admittedly, quite good at cutting back to the studio for the US adverts - because they are regulated by the Ofcom rules on advertising.

            4. DS999 Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: So what?

              I don't know where you live but in the US there were far fewer ads per hour of TV back than today. If you watch reruns of old shows on TV now they either cut parts of the show out to fit in the 30 minute window or they show them in 35 minute blocks to allow fitting in the old show with today's serving of ads.

              Advertising has been increasing my whole life. When I was a kid going to sporting events (just as an example) there was basically no advertising inside the stadiums. Now you have ads on the scoreboards, signs built into the structure of the stadium itself for multi-tiered stadiums, advertising on the nets that catch balls after they go through the goalposts, advertising on the field in some cases and many stadiums have sold the naming rights for the stadium itself!

              I can't imagine how anyone could claim with a straight face that there were even the same number of ads back then as there are today, rather than "many, many times more". Did you used to live in Times Square as a kid and now you live in Amish country? Because that's the only feasible way I could see you claiming there is less advertising today than there used to be!

              1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                Re: So what?

                You’re just wrong. Recency bias.

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And nothing was lost

          Christ I've seen some Noddy economics from commentards but this must be the contender for this year, or maybe even this decade.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
            Pint

            Nail on head. Hit.

            For you, sir.

          2. Pete Sdev Bronze badge
            FAIL

            Re: And nothing was lost

            I hope that Rishi or Hunt don't see it, otherwise the UK government will soon be passing a law requiring everyone to view x ads per day to boost GDP...

        7. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: And nothing was lost

          "Justthefacts", except ignoring all the data about how ineffective ads, even targetted ads, are and using excessive simplistics mathematics to try and make a point.

          To quote the tobacco lobby: ads aren't there to encourage more smoking just to switch brands, ie. switch spending between companies. Now, although this claim has been somewhat debunked, brand recognition is still an importnat part of advertising but still has nothing to do with the "see-click-buy" utopia/dsytopia you propose.

        8. jmch Silver badge

          Re: And nothing was lost

          That 'maths' only works if people only ever buy anything if they are shown an ad for it, which is obvious nonsense. And it only works if you ignore the fact that there was tons of targeted advertising before individual user profiling and micro-targeting.

          "But that world doesn’t exist any more. This is your world."

          Well I (and by a quick look around these comments quite a large %age of other people) would rather live in a world where people don't have their every online move tracked and their personal information traded in order to receive a gigantic bunch of mostly useless 'targeted' ads instead of a gigantic bunch of mostly useless 'untargeted' ads. This is an important point that many seem to be missing - even putting aside for a moment the privacy issues that by themselves make the micro-targeting a no-no, the targeting doesn't really work very well. Not substantially any better than having fishing rod ads in fishing magazines (websites) and car / accessory ads in car magazines (websites) etc etc.

          And the awfully skewed incentives of the ad market mean that websites no longer need to provide quality material to attract eyeballs and ad revenue, it's just become a numbers game, where for whatever topic you care to mention there are a half dozen good, serious sites, and half a million crappy sites put together with scrapers and autogenerated content that don't care anything about content, they are just click-farms

          1. Justthefacts Silver badge

            Re: And nothing was lost

            Once again. You clearly don’t understand the technology or terminology.

            These aren’t “targeted ads”. These are 3rd party ads, aka “native advertising”. Which may well be targeted, that’s an entirely orthogonal question. The large majority of native ads are targeted, but the vast majority of those are targeted demographically, not interest-based or behaviourally. Specifically because most advertisers know that behavioural isn’t that effective.

            If you want to argue against 3rd party ads, with targeted interest, which seems to be what you care about for “privacy intrusion”, that’s a totally different discussion. And the companies who you have a beef against are Taboola and Outbrain, who dominate that space. Not Meta, who don’t play in that space very much at all….and are easily outranked by both Bing and *Yahoo*.

            The sort of targeted ads that Meta or Google do are totally different. They take people who have *gone to their platform*, and present them things they might be interested in, on the basis of a recommendation algorithm. Some of those will be ads. If you don’t want to see Facebook ads, don’t scroll Facebook. That’s all you have to do.

          2. DS999 Silver badge

            This is a key point

            And the awfully skewed incentives of the ad market mean that websites no longer need to provide quality material to attract eyeballs and ad revenue

            This is why we see clickbait come-ons in the sorts of links that Facebook brings to us from their advertisers. You know, the "can you believe the latest crazy thing Britney Spears has done" type that are mostly content free or make you click through a bunch of screens to get to the actual crazy thing she did so they can shower you with a bunch of ads. Those links don't have to represent any particular demographic because they can use Facebook's data whoring machine to serve "targeted" ads at you.

            If there were no such targeted ads, and they would have to show you ads for golf balls on a golf site and ads for add-on dashcams at an auto enthusiast site, these clickbait links would mostly not exist. They are the bastard child of targeted ads and scumbags who work in the advertising industry and have no shame.

            I'm guessing that's the job "justthefacts" has, because no one outside the ad industry would defend them so hard. Maybe he's one of the worst of the worst who comes up with the clickbait headlines, and knows his only talent becomes worthless if targeted advertising ends!

            1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

              Re: This is a key point

              I thought that the clickbait ads were designed just to get clicks up so that websites could claim more interest than they really had and thereby charge more for advertising.

              I assume that there's an arms-race going on in the background. A couple of years ago the local papers were full of "Top 20 killer insects in Dorset" and "Premier clubs rated by the pies they sell" type articles which, when clicked on, only presented the results a few at a time requiring multiple clicks to get through them all and find out the best/worst one. These seem to have disappeared now and I assume that the advertisers got wise to them.

        9. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: And nothing was lost

          Either the *total* amount of ads people are shown increases by 50x. Or the amount of stuff they buy drops by 50x. Since you don’t seem to want the first one, you’ve just voted for a drop in GDP by 50x.

          Or you have that bass-ackwards, and targetted advertising actually reduces GDP.

          So suppose you flog washing machines. I searched for washing machines, and bought one. Because I searched for a washing machine, ad flingers now think I'm interested in washing machines. So I'll get bombarded with ads for those, even though it's hopefully going to be another decade before I need another one. That ad spend has been entirely wasted. 50x or 100x more washing machine ads aren't going to make me want to buy a 2nd machine. That's just going to drain the marketing budgets of whoever's trying to flog washing machines that may have been better spent elsewhere.

          Luckily, some advertisers are slowly starting to realise that the online ad market isn't what the ad-flingers promised it would be, especially the negative effect of saturation bombardment.

          1. Justthefacts Silver badge

            Re: And nothing was lost

            “Some advertisers started to realise”.

            The scenario you mention is a small fragment of the advertising market, called native advertising. It’s dominated by Taboola and Outbrain. Ad agencies have known for yonks that native advertising doesn’t work well, so the cost-per-click is low, and the revenue is low. They don’t do it very much. It may be a highly *visible* segment, but your estimate of it is just way skewed. And it’s nothing to do with the main business model of Meta or Google (although both of them dabble in it).

            The global market leader in 3rd party ads is Taboola, and their market cap is….drumroll…..$1.1bn. Outbrain is $0.2bn. Meta is $800bn. Now do you understand why 3rd party ads are just a *red herring*?

            1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: And nothing was lost

              The global market leader in 3rd party ads is Taboola, and their market cap is….drumroll…..$1.1bn. Outbrain is $0.2bn. Meta is $800bn. Now do you understand why 3rd party ads are just a *red herring*?

              I assume you're in the industry, and thus may be somewhat biased. I'm not, I'm a fan of Bill Hicks, and to me, an ad is an ad. If it's an ad for something I'm never going to buy and have no interest in, it's a waste of the advertiser's money. There's a great example of this here-

              https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-66935496

              He was too reliant on Facebook marketing and too slow to react when that ceased to be so effective, he says.

              This happened after Apple introduced privacy setting changes on its iPhones in 2021, so Facebook couldn't automatically track which sites users were visiting to build an accurate profile of customer habits.

              This led to less targeted advertising, more wasted money and a decline in direct-to-consumer sales through their website, says Gareth...

              ...He also wishes he had gone to more trade fairs sooner as you can negotiate better margins with retailers, which could have helped the business grow.

              Well.. duh. Despite being a marketing professional, he may also have realised that his potential customers weren't Facepalm users, because for the hip, young and eco-conscious, Facepalm is soo last century. So that business wasted money on snakeoil advertising instead of focusing on lower cost, higher margin B2B sales.

        10. mpi Silver badge

          Re: And nothing was lost

          > For the next….lifetime….you receive tons of ads for vacuum cleaners, whether or not you bought one.

          Fun fact: We get these non targeted ads ANYWAY. Because they never went away. This isn't a case of A or B, we get both, and more than ever.

          > Because ads *were* targeted, and still are: ads on TV after the watershed, ads on childrens TV, ads in “Woman and Home” and ads in “Fishing Monthly”.

          Fine by me. Because these are targeted BY MEDIUM CONSUMED, not by PERSONAL PREFERENCES AND ACTIVITIES. The targeting is done BY THE USERS CHOICE OF MEDIUM. They don't require collecting vast amounts of user data, they don't require tracking of users behavior online, they don't require websites to load so many dozens of MB of tracking software, that making software to specifically prevent these from working, became a whole sub-industry all of its own.

          > But that world doesn’t exist any more.

          Yes it does, because we still have all these medium-targeted ads. Only now we have them, and the untargeted ones, which also never went away, IN ADDITION to the ones targeted by user data.

          > Since you don’t seem to want the first one, you’ve just voted for a drop in GDP by 50x.

          Please, do tell: What evidence, peer reviewed studies or other sources are backing up that number?

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            Re: And nothing was lost

            Please, do tell: What evidence, peer reviewed studies or other sources are backing up that number?

            I suspect he's talking about his own personal GDP. Because only one of the slimeballs in the targeted advertising industry would be defending it so hard.

        11. Drat

          Re: And nothing was lost

          Ads don't drive the economy. Ads either make people buy one brand over another, buy something for more than it is worth because it is branded, or encourage you to buy something useless. On rare occasions they might inform you of a new product, but that is very rare.

          Content related Ads are an acceptable evil if we want to consume content for free, targeted Ads are an unnecessary evil designed to exploit the gullible IMO

        12. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: And nothing was lost

          And some people spend money without having had adverts shoved down their throats.

          If I need something I'll look for it.

        13. 43300 Silver badge

          Re: And nothing was lost

          More sophisticated targeting (which they will have the data for, so clearly they don't think it's worth their effort) would be to tag things which are unlikely to be bought again for ages - a vacuum cleaner, a sink plunger, etc - and not advertise them to a customer who has just bought one from them. Then they could advertise bags for the vacuum cleaner, stuff to pour down the sink to stop it blocking, etc!

        14. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: And nothing was lost

          The whole idea of targeted ads assumes the ad slingers have even a vague clue about my interests.

          My biggest non work related interest is wildlife.

          I receive some wildlife related magazines (those old archaic printed things on paper) and so that interest is invisible to digital ad people.

          I post details of some of my wildlife sightings online (species, number. location, date / time etc) but the sites that I use for that are run by wildlife groups I am a member of and, crucially, those sites are free of ads and trackers and so essentially my use of those sites is "invisible" to ad people (obv. ISP knows the sites I visit, but if we assume ISP does not sell my URL access history to third parties then can assume ad people unaware). .. back in the day (before websites received extra observation record adding functionality) these records were submitted on paper, by post, even more invisible,

          Thus, we have my biggest interest totally unknown to advertisers, so any "targeted" advertising I receive is, by definition, not very well targeted.

          And, as people have repeatedly mentioned, lots of targeted stuff is stupid - purchase x and then get weeks of adverts for x (particularly annoying as often where x is not something you particularly want multiple ones of e.g. a washing machine & typical reason for buying is existing one is broken beyond repair. Bizarrely this happens rarely for something you may buy relatively often e.g.

          coffee beans for us caffeine fans, but those are typically not a big ticket item (relatively low monetary value) which may be relevant)

        15. katrinab Silver badge
          Megaphone

          Re: And nothing was lost

          TV ads are targeted based on the content of the show, not on the individual viewer.

          Given that they seem to earn a lot more money, that is probably actually a better approach.

          The Ad Targeting Algorithm has now decided for some reason that I really want to buy a load of miracle cleaning scam stuff. I presume the fact that I declined to take them up on their pregnancy test offers mean I now have a load of babies making a mess everywhere or something.

      2. 43300 Silver badge

        Re: And nothing was lost

        Indeed. They are totally incapable of identifying things which you are highly unlikely to buy more than once of in a period of a number of years. I bought a sink plunger on Amazon a while back and they kept offering me sink plungers for weeks. Strangely enough, I didn't need more than one!

    2. prh99

      Re: And nothing was lost

      Depends on what you mean by work. If you mean let Meta and Google etc charge more and resell the reams of data then they're working as intended.

      If you mean better match the ad to the person seeing it, I very much doubt they're much more effective.

      Research suggests publishers get just 4% more serving targeted versus non-targeted ads, but they're also more expensive.

      https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/31/targeted-ads-offer-little-extra-value-for-online-publishers-study-suggests/

  4. IGotOut Silver badge

    Don't worry...

    Thanks to Brexit, us Brits will be able to claim back our sovereignty by continuing to allow them scrape our data and selling it to anyone that wants it.

    1. mpi Silver badge

      Re: Don't worry...

      It also means that whenever Britain does try to get multinational big tech corporations under control, their effective argument is that they are a market of just shy of 70 million people.

      Compared to the EU, who can argue that they have 448 million people, and represent the third largest economic power in the world.

  5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    American corporations don't like judgements

    What's interesting is Facebook's disingenuous claim that the decision isn't necessary because it's working on the solution already. This is a novel but depressingly common approach to law in Silicon Valley that assumes the law is what it wants it to be. But companies don't get to interpret the law, that's the job of the courts. Without the decision the company can announce anything it likes and doesn't need to worry. But so can other companies.

    There's now another black mark against Facebook and investors should take note.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: American corporations don't like judgements

      Worse, FB's proposed "solution" is prima facie unlawful, as it is explicitly prohibited by the GDPR.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: American corporations don't like judgements

      This is a novel but depressingly common approach to law in Silicon Valley that assumes the law is what it wants it to be.

      Too often it is. Don't forget FacePalm hired Nick Clegg, who some in the UK may remember as being the other Prime Minister during an attempt at running a coalition government. Sadly, Big Tech has the money to hire useless twats like Clegg, and other slightly used politicians who then use their contacts to try and get the laws they want.

  6. sketharaman

    So spam ads are okay, huh?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Only if there are no ads for Lobster Thermidor

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      So spam ads are okay

      My wife likes spam. Preferrably fried in a bit of butter [1] or, at least grilled. Me - I'd rather eat shoe-leather. It's probably more nutritious

      [1] Because spam doesn't have enough fat and salt in it..

  7. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    In Other News

    I'm surprised that you haven't reported on this one. LinkedIn have lost a case that may be bringing Do Not Track back. Once the inevitable appeal is over, natch.

  8. Potemkine! Silver badge

    it has been clear that Meta is breaking the law, the social network continued its data collection anyway.

    So why isn't Meta fined at the level of 4% of its global revenue as GDPR states? Meta doesn't deserve any preferential treatment, white collar crime must be punished as well. Could the DPA do its job at last?

  9. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

    Could the DPA do its job at last?

    The Irish DPA? Not unless they get sanctioned by the EU (again) for not doing their job..

  10. Tron Silver badge

    There are easy solutions.

    Getting (badly) targeted ads is less annoying than getting untargeted ads. FB can offer people the option of ticking boxes to ask to see specific types of ads and not to see others. I can't see a rationale for legally blocking that.

    If this causes EU citizens to lose their social media, EU governments will be hated by large chunks of the population, who will process their loss and unchoose their elected leaders at the next election. Particularly if it equates to censorship by the back door and the wiping out of free web 2.0 services.

    El Reg readers are a sniffy bunch of social media haters, but the majority of citizens enjoy it and use it daily. Having it taken away because of a government law may see protests and perhaps a few nooses appearing near government buildings. Governments aren't popular as it is. The Tories will be lucky to retain their deposit at the next election, and French people may finally accept a few years of Neo-Nazis or Communists, if that is what it takes to get rid of Macron.

    Taking the things away from people that they enjoy in countries where people have a vote, doesn't end well.

  11. anothercynic Silver badge

    Time to change my location to the EEA then. Hej Norge! ;-)

  12. Omnipresent Bronze badge

    Honestly

    This benefits META, and some of the best tech news I've heard n a while:

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Mr_Pitiful
    Unhappy

    Targetted? Really?

    Meta (bad taste appeared in mouth)

    I'm flooded with ads while reading groups I follow, and when I buy anything from Amazon/Ebay/AO

    Don't even think of booking a cruise or getting flight info (we enjoy cruise hols)

    But more 'targetted ads', are for stuff I've already brought/ordered! Whats the point in that?

    If I buy a new car, I'm not likely to need another one the next day/week/month, am I?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like