If tech companies couldn’t sell our data, where would the Internet be?

Let’s say companies like Google and Facebook could never use cookies to do targeted advertising and no one could sell our data. Would they even exist? What kind of place would the Internet have become without that driving business?

I kind of think Facebook would not exist and most others would be a fraction of their size if they were around at all.

They will be around, just smaller. This would hurt FB less since they can still access users FB profile to glean a lot of personal info while a company like Google would need to make an identity map

Google doesn’t need to sell it, just exploit it internally. They are the largest advertiser in the world. Facebook also is a huge advertiser. It’s the 3rd parties that also advertise through various Google, Apple, Facebook platforms that really benefit from “retargeting” and selling your profile data on exchanges. One example is Applovin. Those companies feed off of the ecosystems created by Google, Facebook, etc.

Without some ability for Google to track across the web, third party ads would have been stuck in the terrible generic ad days and a bunch of blogs I liked couldn’t have become full-time jobs for the writers.

Google makes the great majority of its money from first-party ads, mostly the text ads in Search.

If you thing Google sells your data, you don’t have the first idea how it works.

Why would they not sell something they can make money off by selling?

Bingo. Though for years, Facebook was in much the same way, and then as I understand it, in recent years they’ve screwed up and by either starting to sell customer data – or provide it too easily to third parties at least. Which is a weird instance of a company who collected a ton of customer data not understanding that the value of that asset was Facebook themselves being a heavily restrictive gate between advertisers and that information.

Could you say, though, that the reason Google can make money on first-party ads is that they use your search data and all the other data they passively acquire to tune their algorithms to make the ads more effective (or at least more attractive to ad buyers)? Indirectly, user data seems to drive the Internet whether it’s packaged and sold directly and externally or whether its mined and exploited internally. Not that I have a particular objection to that; something has to pay for the Internet.

I thought Google used your cookies to sell information to advertisers. And those cookies often have detail in them that many people would rather not be out there for sale (even if it is something minor like your location). And that’s why advertisers love them so much. They could better target ads to clusters of people, instead of paying to have ads target everyone.

Google Ads and AdMob are both mediators for other ad networks and ad providers themselves. Yes, they provide the advertising identifier from the device to networks they mediate, but they do not share your entire profile. Networks that support AdMob mediation develop their own profiles of your online behavior. Google doesn’t give that to them because it literally is the key they hold that allows them to bid first part ads more efficiently.

Facebook Ad Network is similar but Facebook is more loosey goosey about data tracking and sharing/selling. However, the data they have about you remains their golden egg. The sleezy 3rd party ad networks that don’t have a first party method to gather your data are the ones actively participating in data trading and malicious retargeting.

These days, Real Time Bidding allows many networks to bid on serving you an ad at the moment one is requested for your device. The depth of their data lakes and behavior profiling determines their efficiency, so there’s real pressure to buy and trade more user behavior.

Turn off behavioral advertising on your mobile devices to opt out of the easy and obvious ways they profile you. They still use “retargeting” to build profiles, but it’s harder.

Source: I manage a bunch of this stuff for a living. It’s a dark and mystifying world out there in the world of ad tech.

Edit: it is PART of what I do for a living.

Yep, what Clay said.

This is GREATLY simplified, but when you are an advertiser who utilizes Google Ads, you can choose how focused you want your ads to be on a variety of demographic and user-interest parameters. As an advertiser you can pay to reach those groups, with the cost going up depending on the number of demographic parameters you want, and how difficult/exclusive/valuable those demographic or interest groups are. Google then shows your ad to people in those groups, without surfacing to you, the advertiser – or selling the individual information of those groups and group members – to the advertiser. Because that would be a disaster of lost revenue streams and potential future streams for Google.