There’s a growing unease about the use of behavioural advertising: technologies that track and learn about our online behaviour in order to feed us ever-more targeted ads. As online connectivity reaches into every aspect of our lives, advertisers and corporations are able to collect more of our personal data than ever before.
With this in mind, a privacy tool app called Better has been created by Ind.ie, a small practice of ethical developers based in Cork, Ireland, who are working for social justice in the digital age. Behind it are cyborg rights activist, designer and developer Aral Balkan and designer Laura Kalbag, who is also the author of ‘Accessibility For Everyone’ – and they’re keen to point out that Better is no mere ad blocker. They are critical of most commonly available ad blocking software, suggesting its principles are still based around what Aral terms ‘surveillance capitalism’.
Rather than blocking ads, Better blocks the code that tracks our activity, giving us back a level of privacy most of us have surrendered to the likes of Google and Facebook.
Why did Aral and Laura build Better? Why do they want to disrupt the mechanisms that make the commercial web profitable and viable? Aral is outspoken on this question. “We’re not sleepwalking into a dystopian future, we’re there today.”
His belief is that our lives and data have become mere tools for driving the profit of online corporations. For our online lives to become fairer, more private, and free from exploitation, he argues strongly that the business models of surveillance capitalism must be disrupted. Better is part of his fight to help us reclaim our online freedom.
Better was mapped by Louise Ash in her AtlasChart: 10 rebels with a cause.
Accidental ethical business geek Louise Ash is the organiser of Meaning conference – a way of sharing stories about what happens when business is brave enough to think differently.
Aral Balkan and Laura Kalbag