There are more than 100,000 online ad-blockers, and it’s the ad-selling company’s strategy to stop them.
The companies aim to prevent the sale of counterfeit and pirated products and ads.
And while the technology exists, its also a battle between online ad companies and the law-enforcement agencies who are trying to enforce the law.
They argue the technology is dangerous, and can be used to spy on people.
“We believe it’s a great service for advertisers and the public to be able to have their ads appear without being watched by the public,” said Mark Fenton, the executive vice-president of Fenton Associates, a Washington-based advertising and marketing agency.
“But the technology has a big potential for abuse, and there’s a lot of potential for privacy issues.”
Fenton’s agency has a few clients who have reported issues with the technology.
But the vast majority of Backpage customers have gone straight to a third-party ad-tech firm.
In most cases, those companies have no record of what they do, and Fenton said they are unable to provide customers with the tools needed to opt out.
“When you’re going through this with an ad-processing company, they can’t even tell you that you’re being spied on,” Fenton told CBC News.
“They don’t even know how much data you’re getting.
So that’s a big red flag.”
For many advertisers, the most important issue is privacy.
“It’s really important for people to understand that their privacy is not being violated,” said Stephanie Bowers, a partner at law firm Ropes & Gray LLP.
“You can still control what’s going on with your online activity.”
But for the ad companies themselves, there is also a risk that it can be abused.
“I’m a big believer that people are not going to get that trust back,” said Bowers.
“So they’re going to want to do what they can to protect themselves and their online reputation.”
There are plenty of ad-sales sites, including Backpage, that are well-known for their illegal activities.
Many of them use bots, or scripts that mimic human language.
And it’s unclear if Backpage was one of those.
“The vast majority are legitimate and ad-supported,” said Fenton.
“If they’re not, there are other sites that do.”
A spokesman for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is responsible for tracking illegal online ads, said it’s “working to track back to the site’s IP address, but it has not yet been determined if it was an ad.”
And while it’s not uncommon for ad-shopping sites to provide ads that resemble legitimate content, the issue is more complicated than that.
Backpage advertises in languages that are not commonly spoken by people in Canada.
For example, its ads are in English, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese.
The company also uses a system called “language translation” to translate text, meaning it can tell when you’re talking to someone else and translate that text to your language of choice.
Fenton estimates that there are around 2.3 million websites that use ad-scanning technology.
Fears about privacy, safety and fraud are among the reasons the ad industry is lobbying for better privacy protections for people using the technology to purchase goods and services.
Advertisers have a lot to gain by providing a service that is easy for people who aren’t familiar with the industry to use, said Mark Blum, a professor at the University of Waterloo’s Department of Information and Communication Technologies.
“And in the case of Backpages, it seems like they’re getting a lot more benefit than the person who is using the service,” Blum said.
“That’s the only reason I think they’re using it.”
A look at how Backpage has made money: 2013-14: $8.5 million 2013-2014: $11 million 2013: $6.8 million 2014: $9.8 Million