Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Baffle Web Trackers by Obfuscating Your Behaviour

Clive Thompson, Wired:

It’s increasingly hard to “opt out” of online tracking. “Unless you want to go live in a cave away from society,” Nissenbaum notes, you need to be online — often for work or to access government services. Online services claim they’re voluntary, but the cost of being a refusenik grows every day.

In this context, obfuscation is a clever judo move. It’s a way for people in a relatively weak position — which is to say all of us, compared with Google or Facebook — to fight back. You exploit your adversaries’ inherent weakness: their insatiable appetite for data.

Clever strategy, but I’m not sure it is as impossible to opt out of tracking as claimed. I went through the AdChoices blanket opt-out page and opted out of everything listed, then turned off third-party cookies in Safari. I haven’t seen any interest-based ads since.

Mind you, after I started doing this, I noticed that some websites — like my favourite shoe company’s — started funnelling my natural in-site clicks through a third-party ad network. By making me click on those links, it looks to Safari as though I’m opting into those cookies. Crafty and deceptive.