Main menu


The struggle between gratuity and privacy

featured image

Around every online corner, someone is trying to sell you something. Advertisements for Grammarly play before, during and after YouTube videos. Online shopping ads show up on social media, streaming platforms and message boards. These ads intrude our casual web browsing and interrupt our scrolls through news articles. Just now, I couldn’t look up a synonym for ‘intrude’ without seeing an ad for children’s Zyrtec — and I don’t have allergies nor do I have a kid.

Online ads are everywhere, but the fact that they subtract a couple seconds of my time has always been a minor inconvenience. For most of my life, I dismissed these ads as a normal part of existing half of any given day in front of a screen. But recently I’ve grown a little more skeptical. When I see a Zyrtec ad, I’m left wondering why I was shown their product.

If I’m browsing the web, and I click the little ‘x’ to close out a pop-up ad, Google replaces the image with two links: ‘Stop seeing this ad’ and ‘Why this ad?’ This second link opens a new tab in which Google explains that the ad was selected based off of “(My) activity on Google on this device.”