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Online privacy and the Future of Advertising

Advertising companies are under increasing pressure to present digital content that maintains the attention of potential customers online in a measurable fashion. Poor ROI has given rise to corporate interest in what is known as the ‘attention economy’. Successful advertising is now increasingly measured on whether sustained attention is given to the advertising content that populates our internet spaces. Corporations are no longer willing to buy hugely expensive digital campaigns that produce disappointing results and the ad agencies have been forced to evolve their approach in proving the success of their campaigns through the measurement of attention via time spent with advertising content. Even Facebook has recently announced the use of ‘time spent’ in its feed algorithm as an indication of a quality piece of advertising. (1)

Indeed, the future looks to become increasingly more invasive of our online privacy, as the potential for eye tracking technologies will soon enable adverts to watch you watching them.

As the next generation of computing turns to the eyes, a whole new world of interaction and control is becoming possible — along with entirely new methods of invasive data collection and tracking. (2)

This makes our online identity, as measured now, not only by our search preferences, but also via our attention given to content, even more valuable to advertisers. Yet they seek to deny or negate this value. Indeed, companies increasingly make you sign away your rights to not be monitored, when it would seem far more logical to just ask you what advertising content you would like to view. It seems incredible that these companies are engaging in increasingly more technical ways of gathering personalized data, and yet are not approaching the customer directly. Instead, they use stealth — gathering people’s identity metrics via cookies and bots that generate analytics on an individual’s online behavior. But this information isn’t bro...

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