Our Advertising Vision

Ads that don't track you, sold by a company you can trust.

We realize that our name, EthicalAds, sets a high bar for what people expect. We do our best to live up those expectations in all aspects of our business. Whether you are a prospective advertiser or publisher, or you just care about privacy and you want to learn more, we want to define ethical advertising for you here.


Defining 'ethical advertising'

A succinct definition:

Ethical Advertising
Showing unintrusive, relevant ads for real products based on page content without tracking users.

The primary tenets of ethical advertising are:

  • Ethical ads don't track you. This means no permanent advertising cookies and no indefinite storage of personal information.
  • Ethical ads are targeted by page content. We can still show relevant and valuable ads knowing only the content you're reading, not who you are as a person.
  • Ethical ad networks sell ads, not data. Companies doing ethical advertising should make money showing ads, not selling user data.

Some companies would like you to believe that it's impossible to do advertising without user tracking, but that simply isn't true. To paraphrase Doc Searls, who has been raising the alarm about invasive advertising for years, traditional advertising without tracking built every brand you can name.

"Advertising [without tracking] ... created nearly every worldwide brand you can name"

— Doc Searls, editor-in-chief of Linux Journal

Why we created EthicalAds

We started ethical advertising as a way to sustainably fund open source development on Read the Docs. At Read the Docs, we listened to our users. They told us they didn't have a problem with advertising, but they wanted their privacy respected: no tracking users around the internet and no advertising cookies. At that time, there wasn't an ad network out there willing to work with us on those terms (we looked).

Without a good alternative, we decided to build our own advertising platform. We built our own ad server and did our own ad sales. It wasn't easy, but as we talked about in our 2018 blog post: ethical advertising works. We're thrilled to be able to bring our vision of advertising to open source developers everywhere.

We targeted developers first because as developers ourselves, we understand the massive downsides of the current advertising industry. This includes malware, slow site performance, and huge databases of your personal data being sold to the highest bidder. We didn't want to be a part of that and from talking to our users at Read the Docs, there seemed to be lots of other folks out there who didn't either.

How our ads work

Our ads work a bit differently than most other ad networks out there. Most ad networks have databases of user data that they use to predict the types of ads somebody is likely to click. This data includes sites a user has visited, a user's search history, personal data about users such as their likes and dislikes, and ads a person has interacted with in the past.

At EthicalAds, we don't use these techniques. Instead, we target based solely upon:

  • Details of the page where the advertisement is shown including:

    - The name and keywords associated with the publisher's content
    - Content of the page (eg. H1, title, etc.)
    - Whether the page is being viewed on a mobile device
  • General geography

    - We allow advertisers to target ads to a list of countries or to exclude
      countries from their advertising.
      For ads targeting the USA, we also support targeting states or large metro areas.
    - We geolocate a user's IP address when a request is made and we don't store
      precise locations or precise IPs for longer than a few days to detect fraud and keep our site secure.

Why our ads work

In addition to how they work, it's also important to talk about why our ads work. Tracking users is one way to keep ads relevant and make sure they work for advertisers, but it isn't the only way. Instead we:

  • Focus on developers. Don't try to build another generic ad network for everyone.
  • Partner only with high-quality publishers who also focus on developers.

By focusing, we are able to ensure our ads stay relevant even without tracking and work well for our advertisers. We also vet every publisher individually to make sure they're a fit for our network and ensure that they bring the kind of audience our advertisers want to reach.

Community Ads

We believe ads can also be used to bring a people together. We give our publishers the ability to contribute to the dev community by promoting worthy, relevant causes like underfunded open-source, projects or non-profit technical conferences. To apply to our Community Ads program or for more information on this initiative, please visit our Community Ads page.

Your data

At EthicalAds, we take your privacy seriously. We've made a number of legally-binding pledges about how we handle data starting with our privacy policy. We don't want you to just take our word for it, however, so we invite you to take a look at our code as well.

EthicalAds supports Do Not Track (DNT). To comply with DNT, we pledge to delete user personal information such as IP addresses in server logs after no more than 10 days. We do this regardless of whether you set the DNT flag in your browser or not. For more details, see the Do Not Track section of our privacy policy.

We do not share, sell, rent, or trade personal information with third parties for their commercial purposes.

Join us

Ethical advertising is our vision for the future of internet advertising, and we hope that you'll join us. We believe the open source community should show the way forward, since we have a deep understanding of how privacy issues impact the internet. We have space for additional publishers and advertisers, and look forward to building something meaningful with you:

Become an advertiser

Start your campaign today!