advertising · background · privacy

Surveillance protection: Key benefits for publishers

By Don Marti & Bill Densmore

  • Ad fraud is enabled by cross-site surveillance: A fraudbot collects cookies (“cookie licking”) at a legit publisher’s site, then uses them to look like a human when visiting fraud sites. This is called “data leakage.” The costs of fraud are largely priced in—so legit publishers, not advertisers or intermediaries, pay.

  • By allowing dozens of advertising networks to place “tracking (surveillance) cookies” on their user’s browsers and machines, legitimate publishers are creating roadmaps for competing advertising sales networks to reach their users.

  • If a publisher’s user installs a publisher-branded or publisher-support surveillance protection tool on their browser or machine, unwanted third-party tracking cookies can be stopped.
  • That means when the same user can’t be tracked from high-value to low-value sites, tracking protection reduces ability of low-value sites to reach the same users. Tracking protection means that a legit publisher’s site can become the most practical way to reach its audiences.

  • When a legit publisher has better control over access to its audience, the publisher has the market power needed to enforce standards on annoying, disgusting, and deceptive ads (as it does in print). Better ad standards can reduce user incentives to block ads.
  • Surveillance protection makes it less likely that any given ad is targeted to an individual user. Less targeted ads carry more signal, and blocking them is less likely to be economically rational for users. (Users block web ads while putting up with magazine and TV ads.)

  • By removing low-reputation sites from the pool of available inventory, advertisers are less likely to have their ads appear in brand-unsafe contexts such as infringing content sites.

  • Tracking protection is consistent with values of privacy and individual self-determination held by many publishers and their contributors.

Surveillance protection does not have to be perfect to move the market. It simply has to push the balance to the point where dealing directly with high-reputation sites is a better deal for advertisers than trying to reach the same users on cheaper sites.

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