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Pi-Hole: Ad Block for your network

Digital advertising is a $200 billion industry, and growing. But Pi-Hole, a Raspberry Pi based free, open source software package is giving the digital advertising industry major headaches.

Most ad-blockers are to be installed on individual devices, or even then; on individual browsers and work only within the browser framework. But Pi-Hole’s web is larger, and more effective. Pi-Hole blocks ads across the entire network, which means most apps too. (Currently, except YouTube and Hulu, for technical reasons.)

It does not block ads inside Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but it can stop these sites from following your cookie trail across the web.  Banner ads are a definitive no-go too. And the simplification is that any device connected on the network, be it your family or friends on house-visit, everyone’s ads on the particular router network are blocked.

The ad blocker was developed by Minnesota programmer Jacob Salmela and is still fairly in it’s beginner phases. Mark Drobnak, of Rochester Institute of Technology; developed the web interface to let users easily add sites to block or whitelist; and is currently a part of a tiny, volunteer development team put together by Jacob Salmela.

Ads are annoying, Pi-Hole gives you control over that. – Mark Drobnak

One of the major reasons for the increased usage of Ad-Blockers is because online advertising has rapidly grown to be a predatory eco-system. While blocking costs publishers billions of lost revenue per year, the rate and scale of data being tracked by entities has made it more of a self-defense move.

Another overlooked fact is that a lot of ads today slow down devices, eat up data plans, and at times act as delivery vectors for malware. All the while, the amount of information mined on individual users expand to monstrous specificity and details, all by tracking user’s web behaviour.

With sites like Facebook and YouTube working towards maximising time spent by people on their platform, to enable more ad inventory; abetting spread of fake news, child pornography, trolls, violent and abusive content seems, all to gain more and more virality.

Although countries like US, Canada, Japan and the European Union are taking more and more steps to impose a structure of consent before users are tracked; Asian countries, which have the most growing numbers of data users, have zero regulatory protection. Browsers by Apple and Google (and Mozilla) have added features to browser to limit the ads that are highly intrusive and invasive.

Pi-Hole is still in it’s early phases. Currently installed on about 140,000+ networks, it requires a dedicated computer and some tech know-how to set up. Its already gained over 22,000 true believers on Reddit. The most spectacular outcome of it’s usage is the number of spying incidents discovered by Internet connected TVs (data collection for ad targeting), smart light bulbs (connecting with the manufacturer every 2 seconds) and printers.

What unites the team behind Pi-Hole is a the common resentment towards how far the advertising industry has over-reached in building an online web of surveillance and distractions. And until the digital advertising industry brings in a semblance of balance and wilful self-monitoring, packages like Pi-Hole are going to find more and more takers.


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