Ad-Block Software vs. the Common Good

Last Updated Mar 12, 2008 1:24 PM EDT

Our poll today deals with the question of whether we're ethically obligated to sit through online ads if the Internet is going to remain a mostly free-to-view medium. In some ways, this discussion continues on Monday's poll, which dealt with the ethics of ad-tracking software.

There are now several types of software that allow you to block advertisements from appearing on webpages you view. But if this is OK, is it also fair, as one publisher wrote in the reviews section for Adblock, a Firefox add-on, for a publisher to be able to block people who use such software from viewing the pages they "work at and pay for?"

Rather than go that far, I'd like look at it as a "Tragedy of the Commons" social trap: a conflict of individual interests and the public good.

Your Dilemma: You are the CEO of a company that generates a lot of business through Internet ads. An IT person approaches you with the idea of installing ad-blocking software on employee computers to minimize distractions and increase efficiency.[poll id=23]Have something to say about this conflict between individual interests and the public good? Tell us in the comments section.

Have a workplace-ethics dilemma you'd like to see in this poll? Email wherestheline (at)

  • William Baker

    William Baker is a freelance writer living in Cambridge, MA. His work has appeared in Popular Science, the Boston Globe Magazine, the New York Daily News, Boston Magazine, The Weekly Dig and a bunch of other places (including Field & Stream, though he doesn't hunt and can't really fish). He is a regular contributor to the Boston Globe, where he writes the weekly column, "Meeting the Minds." He holds a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and is at work on his first book.