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back to article Google inspires behavioral ad-zapping Firefox add-on

Last week, when Google rolled out its new interest-based advertising behavioral ad targeting operation, it enveloped the world's web surfers in the sort of cookie conundrum we've come to expect from these privacy-hedging ad schemes. Across YouTube and countless third party sites in its AdSense advertising network, Google is now …

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Paris Hilton

Confused!

Doesn't the Adblock Plus extension make this one redundant?

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Anonymous Coward

Cookie cutter

Firefox allows the user to clear cookies on shutdown save for a selected list. Alongside the customise google extension that's how I keep some control over cookies, it works for me. Granted it's a course grained mechanism - domain/site level control only. I guess this sort of thing pushes us towards more portability of our browser environment, portableapps maybe the way to go. I tried the Safari browser last week to see if it's accelerated JavaScript claims were anything to get excited about ( they weren't ) but I did note there isn't the Firefox level of cookie control.

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Happy

The wrong approach, fortunately

I know Soghoian means well, but I hope (and expect) his efforts will fail.

The advertisers don't want you to opt out. They will put every obstacle they can in your way, and this will include a mind-bogglingly complex array of cookies that you can't keep track of with any tool. Soghoian is embarking on an arms race he can't win.

The reason I want him to fail, spectacularly and quickly, is because only by demonstrating clearly that there is a problem that can't be solved by opt-out will we ever get the clear opt-in legislation that we really need.

Reg readers can see this is true, but politicians can't without a clear example of failure being put under their nose. Hopefully Soghoian will provide it.

Or maybe the BBC Click phorm-alike ad network will come to our aid with a legally-dubious but ever-so-convincing demo?

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Tom
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Unhappy

opt-in only is what we should have...

But I don't expect it to happen.

There is no advantage to the consumer (better ads? give me a break) so NO ONE will opt in unless tricked or paid to do so. The scumbags that make money selling peoples data will be dead. To stay alive money will flow, deals will be made and opt-out will continue on it's useless way.

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Cookie whitelisting is the way to go

Cookies should be rejected unless explicitly allowed to be set. Firefox allows you to do that. Safari and IE do not.

I'm sure there is an extension somewhere to streamline the process, but the way I do it is to set the browser to ask permission for each cookie for a couple of weeks. It gets annoying quite quickly, but by the end of that time, all the sites you use regularly should have been whitelisted. At that point, you just uncheck asking for permission and make rejecting cookies the default.

I make sure Google cookies are disabled in my browser. In the rare instances when I need to log on to a Google service, I use a secondary browser with more permissive settings (in my case, Safari). I still make sure I empy cookies on that browser at least once a month.

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Silver badge

Opt-out?

I have yet to receive any communication from any of these firms opting out from me giving them a punch up the snoot. They have therefore by their own reasoning given me implied consent to do so.

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Thumb Down

I see a time in the not to distant future.....

....when after you have submitted your search query to Googley via a 100MBits fiber optic connection have a flash pop up, or Silver light if Google has the money, acumen and arrogance, featuring an advert related to the LAST search that your neighbor made while pilfering your connection on WiFi..... Only another 125 seconds to go for further ten results of advert infested, cookie directed answers to your query......

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Paris Hilton

Opt me out completely

I made some money off my AdWords. But I cannot condone this kind of marketing. I am closing my account and will start blocking all Google cookies in my browsers. I can avoid using Google, but I will have a difficult time avoiding sites which use its ads until I floss them all out.

Paris, also defying behavioral analysis.

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Coat

Adblock?

I don't know what this extension does that Adblock Plus does not do better. This extension disables the ad but still allows your information to be sent to the advertiser. The Adblock Plus extension blocks the whole ad.

Also I don't understand all the extreme reactions against all forms of advertising. I run Adblock Plus all the time. Recently I unblocked google Adwords - they are not intrusive and are (sometimes) very helpful.

Ironically the most in-your-face ads are in online newspapers, who should really know better. When was the last time you saw an advertisement sticker over the top of the content?

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Gates Horns

Rather than opting out...

how about randomly changing the unique number that I presume is stored in the cookie to identify you?

If the number is randomly chosen every 10 minutes (or hell, everytime something tries to read it), then it would make the system useless wouldn't it?

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Alert

AdBlock+, Flashblock and PeerGuardian lists!

Adblock+ is the best for FF, as the old ad used to say "Kill 99% on contact!". I would say that on average I get maybe 1 in 100 ads getting through, add to that FlashBlock and you have complete control over the crap that these marketers seem to think we actually want. Finally for pure paranoia get the PeerGuardian block list installed on your PC/Firewall! I like my surfing just the way it was back around 1996, clean and uncluttered, easy to navigate, with these great free tools, you can have that!

I despise advertising, it's a sickening blight on our lives, both online and off. When I want your stupid, new supersonic-hydromatic gadget, I'll come looking for you, until then just clear off you parasites!

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Ru
Stop

Re: Adblock Plus

Adblock plus will stop you seeing the targeted adverts, but it won't stop the advertising networks tracking you and making use of the data your behaviour has provided them.

That is why I'll be using the TACO plugin.

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Imagine if....

By default, all Windows PCs came with Firefox installed, and it had the Adblock Plus and this targeted cookie plugin. No more ads! The world would be a better place I tell you.

I can dream cant I?

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Ash

Re: Adblock Plus

AdBlock Plus prevents advertisments being loaded within your web browser, and prevents you from downloading the advertising content until you allow it. This HARMS website owners, as the advertisments which help them pay for hosting fees etc are not viewed. I tend to whitelist google adverts as they are unobtrusive. Flash and animated GIF adverts can sit where the sun don't shine indefinately.

This extension sets the cookie for each advertising network to prevent you being opted in to targetted advertising. It doesn't prevent cookies from any particular company from installing, and in fact this isn't what you want. You WANT the cookie this addon sets, as it (allegedly) prevents you from being profiled.

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Silver badge

Hide a Secret, Score a Loss

Naturally enough, an alien being would think quite differently, thinking that to know ones Needs will allow ones Feeds and when Reciprocal does IT Create a Perpetual Mutually Beneficial Supply Engine ....... and QuITe Immaculate Sourcing and Free from Fear Resourcing as Mutually Beneficial to the Nth Degree, Never Ever Hurt Anything or Anybody.

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Silver badge

How about...

http://www.scroogle.org?

Since they submit all your searches for you, your history won't even enter into the equation.

It's been my default for a long time now. Adblock, scriptblock, flashblock, and all the other toys help too.

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Paris Hilton

For the Perfect Groom ...... A White Knight Charger/Chariot/Driver/Vehicle/Program.

The Dangerous Troubled Waters Google Types are Drowned and Drowning in ........ http://questionablecontent.net/

Goodness knows what's in Paris's head. Everything else is just so normal.

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Ixquick

Use www.ixquick.com for your searches. They track nothing and store nothing.

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A better plugin

What about one that caused FF to report a different apparently valid but randomly generated ID each time? If it caught on it would slowly poison the database.

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Anonymous Coward

OPT-OUT is the wrong way

Google should be required to get the written and signed consent of the user for every site that will use their tracking and monitoring system.

That should put an end to it.

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Anonymous Google search

This has probably been posted before:

For anyone who decries googles tactics and wants to boycott their search engine but cannot find a suitable alternative, have a look at scroogle

http://www.scroogle.org/cgi-bin/scraper.htm

It uses googles search engine but provides results with no ads, uses no cookies, no search-term records and access logs are deleted within 48 hours.

Good stuff (and it's free).

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Boffin

Question

A question for somebody who (A) knows the typcal implementation of such tracking systems and (b) is nice enough to answer!

I have Opera set to refuse cookies from any site unless I tell it otherwise. Obviously, this would stop any "don't track me cookie" from being stored, but wil it also stop the tracking too, or have I shot myself in the foot on this one?

i.e. is the tracking done via cookies in the first place or is the tracking done other means?

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Adblock Plus

Doesn't help. It might well stop the ad appearing on your screen, but your information is still gathered and the ads are still sent to you - you just don't see them.

It's like putting a tablecloth over the elephant, rather than stopping the elephant getting in the room in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

That's hardly all for guarding privacy

There are an increasing number of sites that ask OTHERS to hand over details of their friends. You can be as careful as you want with details, when one of your (hopefully soon to be ex) friends hands over information on you (for instance, naming you in a picture) you have effectively a privacy breach with little recourse - you didn't provide the information, and you may never know they have it in the first place. This neatly sidelines Data Protection guidelines for information collection - they don't need your permission at all, and you usually won't find out who has data on you as a consequence.

Managing your privacy on the Net is becoming increasingly hard because there is money made by breaching it, even if you're not a rock star.. This is why I'm starting to shun the likes of Google, LinkedIn, Xing etc etc etc - most of them have this backdoor problem without much in the way of resolving it. And God help you if someone finds incorrect data on you before you do yourself - anyone for filing some politicians as wife beaters? That will at least draw some attention to the problem..

Now, where did my quill and vellum go ..

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Stop

Don't stop behavioural ads...really

Let me state that I DO work around the edges of the ad industry, and I can tell you that most users BENEFIT from the best targeted ads possible.

Everyone wants free content and free services - be it YouTube, to CNN.com, to Picassa.

Guess what? That model is AD FUNDED. You get services on the web, or wireless mobile, and you get services/products/content.

How many free services/products/content do you get if there is little or no ad funding? A LOT fewer - you are currently getting a bunch now delivered to your screen that are exploratory at best - i.e., they are their in the HOPE that someone will make money by selling ads on them in the future. But very few of them actually ARE right now - in part because ads on the web and ads on mobile are not well targetted at present, and therefore advertisers pay a lot less for them (not in aggregate, as online advertising is now the #1 medium, but for EACH page impression or clickthrough rates are very, very low).

Eventually, this Web2.0 boondoggle will end, just like Web1.0 boondoggle and all the free sites not making money lost their financing. Whatever services you still have access to will be the ones that can actually MAKE MONEY by selling ads - enough money to make it worthwhile, including profit.

Behavioural targeting can increase the revenue from an ad by up to 50%+ - meaning that there is suddenly a LOT more money around for ad funded content and services. ANd that can lead to an increase in the amout of ad spending online and mobile can get from advertisers, rather than having them spend it on direct email campaigns, magazines, etc - which you get no services in exchange for.

So there is your choice - make targeting opt-in (which almost NO ONE will do if they have to sign up for it), or get ready to start seeing a lot of ad funded stuff dissapear. Some still will in the upcoming rationalization, but a lot fewer if we can claim more revenues from advertisers.

That's simple economics, and anyone who doesn't see that has their eyes closed...

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Thumb Up

@ Don't stop behavioural ads...really

Would you be good enough to enumerate the 'services' we receive from the likes of Phorm and other deep scanning, data-thieving parasites? Thought not.

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@amfM - "an alien being would think quite differently"

Conceivably. But s/he would not be a Wo/Man of the Wo/rld.

1 should be mindful of what 1wishes 4, but I would be a little surprised if the Best Bits Censored ran programs like Aliens are Good 4U, So U want 2B An Alien, Strictly Alienation, since the proofs of concept have been far too well trailed down the intertubes (like tenticles?), and the easy pomo [that's an M not an RN in there] has all been done. Metaphorizing the metaphor is beyond the what4 of the Wo/Man of the World today, tho cryptographically sound, and of tremendous interest to the nu insect overlards because of both those things, and as usual, the most dangerous metaphor is securely hidden in open view.

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@AC

Phorm doesn't provide services, they act as an outsourced ad & targeting platform for those that DO. So a photosite that needs to store your gigabytes of online photos and pay their hardware costs by hosting advertisements sign their deal with Phorm OIX (or Google Ad Sense, or Double Click, et al). Google currently uses Ad Sense to pay for Blogger, Picassa, Google Maps, gmail, and I can't count how many others....all services paid for by their use of cookies and tracking and analytics.

Phorm is just one more type of tracking, and one that DOESN'T use cookies on your PC. In someways it is less intrusive than Google's method, in someways more. One does deeper inspection of the URL's you traverse, the other actually writes data to your harddrive...but neither is lifethreatening.

But online and mobile advertisers are demanding targeting in exchange for their ad dollars now, so either get used to the idea of giving up all that free content and services, or learn to live with it...no one promised you a free lunch...

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Anonymous Coward

@Robert Hill

"get ready to start seeing a lot of ad funded stuff dissapear[sic]" - sounds good to me, bring it on.

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Re: Just a Mo.....!

> I thought cookie shit was something invented to fix something about the time fuck knows when. Surely in this brave new Web2.0 era someone should have got around to doing something better.

Flash local shared objects. Stores data on your machine. Isn't blocked by Adblock.

It's now the iPlayer remembers what you've watched

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Paris Hilton

I find targeted advertising OFFENSIVE

If I have to see some braindead moron's "creative" piece of garbage about why I should buy some crap or other, I'd rather it be the same garbage that everyone else sees. I don't want moronic drivel served up according to my "tastes", that are ALWAYS misinterpreted by the useless software/formulas/algorithms that they use to "target" their crap. TARGETED ADVERTISING DOESN'T WORK!!!! And the MORONS in MARKETETING are too stupid to realize this. They are so used to buying their own hype, they don't have a clue about the real world.

Paris because she's obviously smarter than anyone in advertising or marketing.

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Coat

@AC

"TARGETED ADVERTISING DOESN'T WORK!!!! "

The numbers say otherwise, in terms of clickthroughs and purchases. Very strongly so. That's why advertisers are demanding it, and that's why they pay more for it - they don't spend money on a whim, believe it or not. They actually DO get judged by how much money they spend on advertising and marketing, and how sales progress. And there are whole metrics firms dedicated to numerically reporting online ad results, using things like spotlight tags that don't leave much doubt about success or failure of an ad. So your assertion just doesn't hold water, no matter how many times you capitalize it.

"And the MORONS in MARKETETING are too stupid to realize this. They are so used to buying their own hype, they don't have a clue about the real world. Paris because she's obviously smarter than anyone in advertising or marketing."

Except the people developing these systems are NOT in marketing and advertising - rather, they are usually developer geeks or math Phd.s that want to sell their solution to the advertising guys/gals - and it actually has to work to get sold (usually). The founder and CEO of Leiki (used by Double Click and others for contextual advertising) is a very long-haired Finnish guy with a Phd. in Nuclear Physics; the teams at Google much the same type of people. While you might like to justify your antiquated position by claiming you are smarter, I really doubt that you are smarter or a better developer than the people doing this stuff. The employment tests at Google are probably some of the toughtest in the world of IT...all to write what is basically ad software, or ad-supported software designed to lure an audience in to recieve ads...

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Just another one who believes the hype

No, it DOESN'T work.

It feels creepy and stalkerish.

It's offensive.

It DOESN'T work, because it ignores the WHY in favour of the WHAT. Until the idiots who compose this offensive creepy stalkerish stuff understand WHY people are clicking on what they are clicking, it will never be in any way effective. And there is no way to write an algorithm to tell them WHY.

An ad will much more often put me off of some product or company than it will entice me to buy from them. My reaction to about 90% of advertising generally somewhere includes the thought "Who was the braindead moron?!!!"

Keep drinking the Coolaid Mr. Hill, I hope you're happy being any apologist for the MARKETING MORONS. I pity you, and your ignorance.

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