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One of the things I'm shouting about to publishers is how we turned into the tobacco industry. What do I mean? Well, the tobacco industry was doing something that was clearly wrong, and so the legislators stepped in and demanded that they put a warning label on their products.
Now we see the same thing with publishers. The way we are violating people's privacy has caused the legislators to force us to put a warning label on our sites.

Just think about this. We have become the tobacco industry.
"But," every publisher is now yelling back at me, "It's not our fault. It's the ad tech industry, and we can't do anything about this."

Three things:
1. Yes, you can.
2: You are not even trying
3: You are still responsible for what happens on your site.
What I'm seeing is that publishers are instead trying to maintain the status quo. We see publishers and media associations lobby to be allowed to continue to track people, some even trying to make newspapers 'exempt' from privacy laws.

Just like the tobacco industry used to do.
For instance, in 1971, the US put the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, making it illegal to advertise for cigarettes.

For instance, in 1971, the US put the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act into law, making it illegal to advertise for cigarettes.
This law faced massive opposition from the tobacco industry (obviously), but also from the media industry who didn't like the idea of losing what was back then about 8% of their total revenue.…
In the media industry, we stood side-by-side with tobacco executives, arguing that cigarette ads should be allowed because that's how we make money to support the news.

It was the most shameful thing we could ever do. We were willing to kill our readers to maintain our revenue.
Today, we see exactly the same behavior with privacy. Sure, tracking people online doesn't give you cancer, but the concept is the same.

As publishers were are optimizing, lobbying, and arguing for the right to continue to do something that society doesn't want us to do.
Don't get me wrong. As a media analyst, I understand the complexities here. I know the problem with the ad tech networks.

But it doesn't change the fact that many publishers are choosing to violate people's privacy as much as possible ... by design.
Is this who you want to be? Do you want to run a publication where, because of how you operate and make your money, you are now legally required to put a warning on your website ... just like a package of cigarettes?
"But," publishers will say again. "It will make us lose revenue, and we need that more now than ever!"

Yeah, it will... just as in 1971 it costs you money to stop running cigarette ads. That's not a valid excuse.

Change this!
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