Artwork by Ellie Shipman

Digital advertising is a booming industry: worth over $300 billion in 2019 alone. It’s also the primary business model sustaining the internet, humanity’s most important communications tool. But as AI-powered advertising grows more pervasive and sophisticated, it is doing so without guardrails. There are few rules to ensure it doesn’t surveil, misinform, or exclude consumers. If the industry doesn’t undergo major reform, these problems will only grow more pronounced.

Twenty years ago, digital ads were little more than online billboards — pop-ups that didn’t know who was seeing the ad, or why.

But today’s AI-powered digital advertisements are exponentially more…

Advertising is the business model underpinning the web, and a key force in shaping the information environments which also shape public opinion. With that great power should come great responsibility.

However, the development and governance of the role advertising plays in shaping online spaces is being left to industry to decide on and to police. Legislative interventions are piecemeal, often unenforced, and lack an understanding of the role that advertising can play in the development of safe and citizen-focused online spaces. …

The Conscious Advertising Network was set up with a mission to ensure the ethics catches up with the technology of modern advertising. For us, this starts at leadership level, and works its way down. After three years of running the initiative with shared male and female leadership, we’ve come to value the balance and perspective different outlooks can bring to decision making.

The newly published IPA Agency Census is shocking, revealing just how much women have borne the brunt of Covid-related staff cutbacks.

No wonder half of women fear gender equality is going backwards. Yes, backwards, in 2021.

A recent…

Back in the good ol’ days, climate disinformation came from high carbon companies with vested interests. Flowers spewed forth from chimneys on billboards, and coal was clean. In today’s weaponised and AI-driven information environments, it’s become even more sophisticated.

Listen to my TEDxCAT (Climate Action Tech) talk here, and pre-order your copy of the new report, Changing the Narrative here.

Right now, the web has a single reigning business model: digital advertising, a $300 billion industry annually.

This business model has upsides, like “free” access to content, tools, and platforms. But there are also steep harms — and consumers bear the brunt of them. Today’s AI-powered targeted advertisements can spread misinformation and disinformation. They can reinforce societal biases and discrimination. They can increase surveillance. And they can even harm the environment.

It may be possible to reform digital advertising to mitigate these harms, but it is also possible to introduce mainstream alternatives?

A webinar for 2020 Mozilla Festival with Nathalie Marechal of Ranking Digital Rights, Akintunde Sultan of DevCareers, and Janice Waite of Mozilla. Listen here.

Artwork by Ellie Shipman

….As someone who has worked in advertising, the idea of receiving more tailored ads when I surfed the web was absolutely fine by me.

But that is obviously a very naive view of the transfer of data that happens when we’re online. And it comes from a place of not having to worry about the state getting hold of data about me and what they might do with it. It comes from a place of not having to protect special characteristics about myself that might expose me to discrimination. And it comes from a place of being in Europe and…

A bibliography for my recently published report can be found below. All sources were accessed between 1st February and 25th May 2020.

Aapti Institute (2020) The Aapti Podcast: Discussing Surveillance with Divij Joshi, Mozilla Tech Policy Fellow. Aapti Institute. <>


Achara, J.P., Ács, G., & Castelluccia, C. (2015). On the Unicity of Smartphone Applications. WPES ‘15.

Advertising Magazine (2015) You probably think digital ad fraud doesn’t affect you. Think…

Originally posted on the blog of The Conscious Advertising Network.

The recent Facebook boycotts pose a headache for charities. On one hand, Facebook is a key fundraising tool, on the other, it stands accused of failing to take action on hate speech, setting back civil rights, and posts on the platform are implicated in genocide in Myanmar. Not to mention removing fact checks from climate denial.

Over 1100 companies worldwide have pulled millions of dollars in advertising from the social network, with brands from Coca-Cola to Ford, Unilever and Disney demanding that Facebook monitor hate speech more aggressively. …

“I don’t think that listening is the answer. Brands need to listen, act, and be proactive when it comes to world events.

It shouldn’t take the death of a black man to make brands think about board diversity. It shouldn’t take being called out on social media for appearing next to terrorist content for brands to take control of their ad spend, and yet that is the world we are in.”

Read more from me, Nicola Kemp, Chomoi Picho-Owiny and Lydia Hoye on CreativeBrief

“an epic game of risk” by victorio + the camera is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Submission to the consultation on the “White Paper on Artificial Intelligence — a European Approach to Excellence and Trust” with Neil Young of BoraCo

BoraCo is a small consultancy, consisting of sustainability, risk and technology specialists working with organisations building tomorrow’s world. We have witnessed, first hand, the considerable and hard to forsee effects which can be brought about through apparently small, but interrelated risks associated with digital advertising. Although we welcome the desire to create and develop legislation which ensures that AI is ‘trustworthy’, we have several concerns about the current white paper out for consultation by the EC.

  • The paper’s risk based approach is not sufficiently elaborated upon and does not allow for scrutiny
  • Risk is too narrowly defined, complex harms caused…

Harriet Kingaby

Mozilla Fellow and co-chair of the Conscious Advertising Network. Advertising, ethics, AI and climate change. Yes, they do go together.

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