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Majority of Americans now use ad blockers

More than half of Americans are using ad blocking software, and among advertising, programming, and security professionals that fraction is more like two-thirds to three-quarters.

According to a survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by research firm Censuswide, on behalf of Ghostery, a maker of software to block ads and online tracking, 52 percent of Americans now use an ad blocker, up from 34 percent according to 2022 Statista data.

More striking are the figures cited for technically savvy users who have worked at least five years in their respective fields – veteran advertisers, programmers, and cybersecurity experts.

The Censuswide report indicates that 66 percent of experienced advertisers, 72 percent of experienced programmers, and 76 percent of cybersecurity experts use ad blockers.

For the general public, the rationale for doing so tends to be more about protecting privacy (20 percent) than blocking ads (18 percent), with another 9 percent wanting faster web page loading.

And among the expert set, protecting privacy is cited with greater frequency – 27 percent, 30 percent, and 29 percent – for advertisers, developers, and security pros respectively.

“People who know how the internet works – because they work as developers or in security or in advertising – they’ve all over the years decided that it was a good idea to use a tracker blocker or content blocker or adblocker, whatever you call it,” said Jean-Paul Schmetz, CEO of Ghostery, in an interview with The Register. “It’s pretty unanimous that people who work in this industry and know how these things function want to protect themselves.”

Schmetz said one surprising finding had to do with the extent to which people trust various companies that collect online data. “It’s quite amazing that Google is still trusted, even though it is the biggest collector.”

Asked how likely big companies would be to abuse their data, Americans were most wary of TikTok (59 percent), followed by: Meta (56 percent), X/Twitter (49 percent), OpenAI (48 percent), Google (44 percent), Apple (41 percent), Amazon (40 percent), Microsoft (38 percent), Comscore (32 percent), and Adobe (31 percent).

Again, concerns were higher among the more experienced set.

As Schmetz observes in the report, these results show that the American public is less aware of data collection by companies with a lower public profile.

“Whether you work in advertising or as a developer or as a security expert, you tend to know that a web page is not just one thing like a magazine page or newspaper page or video or TV,” said Schmetz.

A web page is not just one thing like a magazine page or newspaper page or video or TV

“It’s a bunch of components that come together in your browser. And you tend to know that a lot of these components are just there for tracking and spying. And that they are unnecessary for the page.

“So you know that if you don’t load them, you’re going to be more private, because people will be able to build less profiles of you. You will have less ads because they have less profiles of you and your brother will be faster.”

Schmetz said people are still generally not aware of the scope of third-party data collection. “It’s normal for Amazon to know whether you’re buying at Amazon,” he said.

“What is less normal is for Tiktok to know what you are reading in the New York Times or at other sites. Maybe a better example is if you’re going to, let’s say Planned Parenthood or something similar, especially in this day and age. I think it would surprise 100 percent of the visitors to know that other companies are looking at that visit.” ®


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