So you have your browser’s ad-blocker enabled and are happily browsing the web when you come across a website that, very politely, asks you to whitelist the site in your ad-blocker because they depend on the ads to keep the site going. We have all come across websites like that. What do you do with such a website? Should you go ahead and whitelist it to allow ads?

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So you have your browser’s ad-blocker enabled and are happily browsing the web when you come across a website that, very politely, asks you to whitelist the site in your ad-blocker because they depend on the ads to keep the site going. We have all come across websites like that. What do you do with such a website? Should you go ahead and whitelist it to allow ads?

TL;DR: No. It is not worth sacrificing your online privacy for anything.

First, we have to understand how most online advertising works. I have talked in detail about third-party cookies and tracking in a couple of earlier posts. To sum it up here, most advertising relies on tracking your behaviour online - the sites you visit, the products you buy, the content you consume and the people you interact with on social media, in addition to your location, age, gender and a lot more - to serve you the most “relevant“ advertisements. Regardless of whether all that data on you is misused or not, this is a serious breach of privacy. No one should be comfortable with that kind of tracking, regardless of its intended use.

So, when a website asks you to whitelist it so that the people running it can keep producing the content you like, they are essentially asking you to allow yourself to be tracked, albeit only on that site. We are talking about sensitive information here. This is not the same as a friend asking if they could borrow your precious pen. If you trust your friend you wouldn’t mind doing so, but with privacy there is no such trust. The website asking you to whitelist it has no control over how your tracked data is going to be used. The people running the website only have the potential to earn some money from you visiting their site because of the advertisements displayed on it.

But what if you trust the site? No. They still have no say over how you are going to be tracked. The people running the site probably don’t realise the implications of someone allowing themselves to be tracked. In some cases they do, but they don’t care. Unless they deal directly with the advertiser and display advertisements without using advertising networks like Google, Facebook, DoubleClick or whatever the new rage is, there is an extremely high chance that by whitelisting the site you will be tracked. If they didn’t use an advertising network the ad-blocker would have probably not blocked it anyway, but that’s a different matter altogether.

What if you really do want to support the website because they are producing valuable content? Make a donation. Pay them for their content. It will be better for them anyway because online advertising does not make much money unless the site has high traffic. A good old fashioned donation will be a better and safer way of supporting the site. This is why I think paywalls are better than advertising, for a website to generate revenue and for users to stay safe while supporting the site.

So, the next time you come across a website that politely asks you to whitelist it, consider donating a small amount. Then there are some websites that completely block content from you if you have an ad-blocker enabled. The best you can do is try to educate them about the matter, or better still, move on. The Internet is so vast that you will most likely find another source for similar content.

If you run your own website and need to make money from it, consider having a paywall or a way to seek donations from readers if they like your content. Unless advertising goes back to its contextual, non-tracked roots, it isn’t good enough.

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