Facebook and Google are Exposed. What Ethical Advertising Alternatives Exist?


It's up to you to decide which networks deserve your ad money. It's also up to you to do business in a way that is not detrimental to consumers. That's the way it is now and the way it will be for the foreseeable future, until regulations make the internet a little safer. What options exist, besides the big dogs?

Facebook's Offenses

There's no question that the internet can be used for good and that it is a source of information which would not have been unimaginable before telephony spread across the world. However, as we've learned, the impetus to use the internet for unethical, even evil purposes is irresistible to some. Recently, Facebook was accused of failing to protect user information. A data broker called Cambridge Analytica, now known for underhanded business practices, was able to gather and use information in a way that violated Facebook's policies. Facebook responded by strengthening restrictions on its API and developing transparency tools, but the damage had been done. 

Facebook has also been accused of sowing controversy and intense feelings among its users. It has even become the centerpiece of foreign involvement in American elections. The abrasive political landscape of 2016 and 2017 is partially due to the promotion of emotive advertisements and Facebook's newsfeed algorithm. They both tend to put the most controversial, outrage-inducing material in front of us while hiding the most informative, reasonable content. The effects of this algorithm and the changes Facebook plans are being debated with intensity. It's worth noting that Facebook is quick to react to criticism, but some of us are not satisfied with the results.

Google's Offenses

Google hasn't faced public scrutiny for the release of user information yet. However, we know Google gathers and stores a tremendous amount of user activity, including search and location history. Some think this is unsafe and unethical. 

Another troubling aspect of Google's business is its Youtube "recommender" widget; the strip that suggests the next videos for you to watch. It tends to recommend extreme videos before mundane, centrist and unbiased ones. This is because we're less likely to resist the urge to watch such videos, and that gives Youtube another chance to display an ad to you. Who can really pass up a guy explaining how Abraham Lincoln was part of a conspiracy against slaves (probably a false claim) or that a guy in Indonesia was eaten by an overgrown macaque (also probably a false claim)? Some have called this algorithm a "radicalizer."


DuckDuckGo is an old-school search engine that just gives you the same results everyone else gets, since it doesn't use your history to adjust the content you see. DuckDuckGo has become known as an anti-Google, thanks to its marketing efforts. When you visit the homepage, you're given a link to install the DuckDuckGo Chrome add-on. The add-on blocks advertising trackers and keeps your search history and personal data safer. 

There is a catch to all of these safety and security propositions coming out of DuckDuckGo, however. The company serves ads on Yahoo and Bing, which use the same trackers and store the same history as Google. Although, if advertisers and searchers start using DuckDuckGo more, the other search engines will take notice, and that could drive a change.

Bing Ads

While Microsoft's Bing is very similar to Google, Microsoft doesn't have its tentacles spread quite as far as Google does. There's no video hosting platform by Microsoft, and Bing has no equivalent to Google+. The lack of these things gives Bing no opportunity to play mind games with us, and possibly radicalize us, as we mentioned before. Bing hasn't been caught up in any major scandals involving data brokers or security breaches (at least not in a while), which is another reason you might choose to serve ads with it. 

Bing Ads is very similar to Google's AdWords platform. They're highly customizable and effective.

Yahoo Gemini

Yahoo's Gemini ad serving platform admits to sharing user info with trusted partners (data brokers, etc.), as other networks do. Honestly, we can't say for sure how well they vet the partners or exactly what information is shared. However, Yahoo's privacy policy explains an easy way to edit your information and edit your marketing preferences. Yahoo has historically been more of a consumer advocate than Google and Facebook, but we can't be sure if that trend will continue. 

A Final Thought

We feel good about the future of advertising. The internet is still in a sort of Wild-West phase. The industry will finds its place sooner or later, and we'll be able to better protect consumers. In the meantime, we support your initiative when you boycott any network that isn't consistent with your values.

Whatever network you choose, isoTree can help you optimize your return on ad investment. Get in touch when you need help.

David Kalla