Interesting development. Google Chrome now includes an ad-blocker that automatically blocks what Google terms the “most intrusive” ads. Their public criteria for that are ads which make noise, block the screen, or don’t have a “close” option — and all pop-ups (are those still a thing?) are also automatically blocked. Here’s the kicker — ads with a density of over 30% (that is, they take up 30% or more of the screen when they appear) are also automatically blocked, regardless of whether or not they comply with all of the other blocking restrictions. This means that a lot of news and blogging sites are going to be arbitrarily banned. It also raises the question of what other restrictions are in place but buried somewhere in the ultra-fine print. Then there’s the whole issue of whether or not Google ads will be given exemptions or some other sort of preferential treatment.
This isn’t a trivial matter, because it’s a unilateral action on Google’s part, no choice to accept it or opt out, no way to deactivate it. It’s another small step in the general online trend to take choice out of the hands of the consumer/user/viewer and place it solely with what I term the content intermediary — in this case Google. We’ve all seen how small encroachments on viewing choices led to Facebook eventually taking what is for all practical purposes total control of what we see on Facebook, often in spite of our explicit, expressed desires otherwise. (Which is why a significant exodus from Facebook began last year and continues unabated — and not the least of reasons why I recently left Facebook, never to return.) Google is not simply climbing onto that bandwagon, it’s firmly settling its cyber-arse in the driver’s seat. We’ve already had more than a convincing number of demonstrations as to how Google deliberately skews search results — now the Big G has taken it upon itself to begin making decisions for you as to what you can and cannot see.
This is how it starts, with something small that hardly anyone can find objectionable — after all, who LIKES to be bombarded with loud, annoying, and persistent ads? But it’s not at all a huge step from “it’s for your convenience” to “it’s for your own good,” with all the manipulation, compulsion, and control that phrase implies, as we’ve seen demonstrated on Facebook over the past seven or eight years.
Firefox is beginning to look awfully purty right about now….