LindseyFriedmann
Internet Advertising
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Lindsey Friedmann

Eng 102

Professor Roop

4-1-02

           

Internet Advertising:  Extra Hassle, Extra Annoying

            It happens every day and there is no escape.  No matter where you go it finds you. You see it every day, everywhere you go you are confronted by it.  It catches your attention then draws you in.  Its structure persuades and influences the decisions you make.  I’m talking about advertising.  In fact, companies have numerous ways of advertising to potential customers.  Billboards and television commercials are the most widely used and oldest forms of advertising.  Due to rapid advances in technology in recent years, online advertising has become more common and continues to increase.  Magazine ads, billboards, even talk show hosts all advise you to visit their websites.  If you have an e-mail address I’m sure you will find some sort of advertisement in your mail box.  I am always finding unsolicited mail in mine.  I think that unsolicited advertising needs to be monitored more effectively by the sellers, consumers, and even a third party.

            If you surf the web on a regular basis, you may have noticed screens that pop up without warning.  All of these screens are advertisements for the website you are exploring and raise funds to maintain that site.  Some of the most common pop up screens are for online casinos, chances to win a trip, and x-rated sites.  Another advertisement I despise is the “you have an urgent message” screen that tries to trick web surfers into clicking on it.  You may have also noticed fake close buttons within the screen; also to trick surfers.  But if you click on this “fake” button, you will only be brought to more advertising websites. All of these sites do more poking and prodding to get your personal information for their database.

            There are a few easy solutions to fix the problems I have just described.  Why not just completely eliminate these tricky pop up screens for good?  Even if the website needs the advertising money, it would be much less of a hassle to incorporate a single page of sponsors.  This way it would be the consumer’s choice to visit it and the seller would still be able to advertise.  Even the layout of the pop up screens could be altered so they are easier to read.  I think it would be a bigger benefit for the seller if they presented their products in a simple and straightforward manner.  This solution makes both the seller and the possible consumer happier.

            Privacy has also become an issue with websites.  Many sites require you to become a “member” in order to access their products and services.  Normally you fill out a series of fields that ask for information such as name, address, email address, phone number, and age.  Some more secure sites will even require a social security number, a member name and password, and what your favorite food is. How safe is this information in the hands of some web tech who reviews your data halfway across the country?  I am skeptical of this procedure and usually choose to exit the site if asked for personal information.  Although the company may think collecting personal information is beneficial, they are actually losing potential customers.

            Unfortunately, since online purchases have become a popular convenience, it is not possible to avoid giving out information all of the time.  I think that a third party would be necessary to help control this problem.  There are already websites such as Pay Pal that act like an online bank.  It would be safer if each credit card company offered a free service like this to mediate the flow of money online.   Your credit card information and personal information would be kept only within this one secure database.  Online fraud, charge backs, and privacy issues would be reduced.   Discover already offers a safer way for credit purchases online.  Instead of giving out your real credit card number, you are issued a temporary number.  This will then link back any charges you make to your real credit card number.  It is a simple solution that would benefit the credit company, the online advertiser, and the consumer.

            Until something more is done for my protection, I have chosen to take a different route.  If I need to visit a website that won’t allow me to sign on without creating a profile, I make one up.  It is a fun and entertaining way to cheat the seller out of valuable information and keep yours safe.  Of course this idea won’t work if you actually want to purchase something, but it is suitable for the browser.  I usually make up a funny email address and name.  Some of my favorites are Al Capone, Nunya Business, and screwu@thuglove.com.  I will also create a fake home address if needed.   There are many names to choose from, so let go and have some fun.  You are only protecting yourself.

            Websites asking for your personal information usually turn around and sell it to other web-based companies.  This means if you put your information in one database, it could it could end up in one hundred more by the end of the week.  Many of these advertisements don’t have any sort of disclaimer saying where your information will be sent to, leaving you at risk for many types of fraud, such as identity fraud and credit card fraud.  We need to become more aware of how our information is relayed and how safe it is being kept.  And since identity fraud is on the rise, the information is obviously not kept secure enough.  We need to take more action in preventing these occurrences.

            We can take many steps to protect ourselves from being misled by these untrustworthy companies and individuals.  I have found that many e-mails I get do have an “unsubscribe” website or e-mail address, but these don’t always work.  I feel like every time I unsubscribe from a company, I receive more junk mail than ever.  At other times when I try to unsubscribe, I will get an e-mail telling me that the address I was given is not valid.  Just a few weeks ago I un-subscribed from a mailing list I had been added to and their mailbox was full, so it didn’t accept my e-mail.  Occurrences such as this can be irritating.  Receiving e-mails is already a hassle, much less to respond to them and then find out it was for no good reason.  These web companies need to be more organized and find a feasible and reliable way to let customers unsubscribe from unwanted e-mails.

            Once again, it seems like third party involvement would help ease this problem.  Most e-mail address providers already provide filters for junk mail which are somewhat helpful in eliminating spam.  Although these provided filters are convenient, it shouldn’t be up to the e-mail website to keep out the junk mail.  Most consumers already know what they want to buy so why would they need unsolicited e-mail?  Why not allow consumers to submit their address to a mailing list according to their interests.  You don’t find x-rated subscriptions in your mailbox at home, so why should you be subjected to them in your e-mailbox.  Something could be learned from the government who has created a list for people who want to unsubscribe from telemarketers.  Although this list is temporary and you are required to resubmit your information every few months, you are saved from annoying phone calls at dinnertime.  The government should also create something similar to this for e-mail advertising.  This would make it your responsibility to stop the unsolicited mail.  Once again, this has the possibility of satisfying both the consumer and seller’s needs. 

            Another scam is within the layout of information forms a website requires you to fill out.  At the end of these forms are check boxes informing you that you may receive advertisements from other web companies.  Because these check boxes are at the end of the page, a person is more likely to miss them.  I have noticed that some of these boxes are already checked for you to receive mail, so it is up to you to uncheck them. 

            It would be less of a hassle if these choices were cut out all together.  I think each website should only rely on their databases for advertisement.  Once again, consumers already know what they want to buy.  Flooding them with information they are only going to delete isn’t necessary.  Companies are wasting money and time by keeping these large databases that require constant maintenance. 

            So next time you are surfing the web or checking your email, keep in mind that many websites are out to trick you into giving them personal information. No one can deny that this information has been misused in the past and will continue to be as long as technology is around.  Take the correct measures by keeping personal information personal, unsubscribe to every e-mail possible, and look out for confusing website layouts that may trick you in more than one way.  With constant intervention we will soon be able to change the way of web surfing, making it more enjoyable and less of a hassle.  And if nothing else seems to work, remember to have fun and get creative.  The truth is, you are only trying to protect yourself.

 

Lindsey Friedmann