I never used to care about online advertising. I never installed an ad blocker. I rarely found myself particularly annoyed by ads, unless they actually prevented me viewing content. Once a year out of carelessness or curiousity I might even have clicked on an Ad. In a way I was an advertiser’s dream: An eyeball with a mouse.
In all our lives there are times when something significant is happening. It could be a bereavement, a financial crisis or a serious illness. The strange thing is there are people who want to talk to us exactly when those things are going on. Some of those people are legitimate, some are not. Some of them want to sell us something, some of them want to let us know about freely available services. Whatever the case, though, none of them have any right to know what’s going on in our lives. None of them have any right to use what’s going on in our lives to target us.
A simple thought experiment: Imagine going onto Google and typing in the word “depression”. You wouldn’t be surprised to see some ads for Aware or The Samaritans. Now imagine, you sent an email to your best friend telling them you’re depressed and the next day you start to see ads for Aware and The Samaritans in your inbox. Doesn’t that cross a line? Imagine you saw an Ad in your inbox from a Psychic Healer who wants to charge you $50 bucks for a phone call. Doesn’t that cross another line?
The point I’m making is simple. We all have a comfort level. The companies that sell these ads aren’t going to stop invading your privacy. You need to go out and take control of it yourself and email is one of the most important places to start.