The use of ad-blocking programs has recently received considerable attention in the media, brought about in large part by the proliferation of various plug-ins or configurational ad-ons that, in one manner or another, enable the blocking of some or all advertising (or content that seems like advertising) by Internet web browsers (e.g., Adblock Plus” plug-in Firefox). In addition, most of the popular commercially available anti-virus, anti-adware and anti-malware programs also provide ad blocking capability. By implementing and using ad-blocking software and extensions, the user is able to remove or block some or all advertisements from being viewed on web pages.

There has always been a natural balance (some would say ‘tension’) between the consumer’s right to privacy and the marketer’s desire to know more in order to reach the right customer. Although clearly context and culturally sensitive, consumers tend to cling to various degrees and aspects of privacy as a means of protecting themselves from unwanted intrusion into their lives. Consumers, however, often willingly and knowingly give up certain privacy protections – although they may not view it that way – in order to receive the benefits and advantages of offers and purchasing opportunities more tailored to their needs, and to avoid receiving “junk.” Marketers, on the other hand, always want better, more timely, and more accurate segmented data, so that advertising can be focused and can cost-effectively reach those who are more likely to have an interest in buying. But marketers know that reaching too far into the minds and hearts of consumers, without their permission, can backfire and cause mistrust and disdain – not a good thing when you are trying to convince a customer to buy your product or service. Witness the public reaction to the launch of the “Beacon” feature by Facebook in our recent past.

Thus, while there has always been a balance and some tension, the increasing direct intersection of these issues, resulting from the rise of consumer and commercial use of the Internet, has spawned a degree of heat over these issues, never before seen in history. The complexity has also created a good deal of emotion and rhetoric.

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