Track This may not be the most practical way to avoid hyper-segmented advertising, but it’s certainly a sign of the times
Track This, a product launched by the Mozilla Foundation, creators among other things of the Firefox browser, has launched an interesting response to a problem I have often commented on: against hypersegmented advertising, obtaining anonymity by creating a smokescreen.
This is done by launching a hundred browser tabs that open sites to simulate a series of profiles, from Hype beast, Filthy Rich, Doomsday or Influencer, which are designed to confuse the characterization tools of profiles created by companies to manage their advertising.
The tool is designed to confuse segmentation algorithms and then hammer home the point by opening the new Firefox with Enhanced Tracking Protection, which is enabled by default. Obviously, opening a hundred tabs is not very practical, consumes a lot of memory and, depending on how powerful your machine is, can even shut down your browser. For this reason, it’s best to use Track This occasionally, in a new browser session and with the rest of your windows closed. After this “confusion session”, it’s best to continue using a browser that allows you to avoid being monitored, or at least, systematically.
This is not necessarily that simple: completely preventing any kind of surveillance implies, in many cases, an operational problem, the impossibility of accessing certain pages, or difficulty saving a shopping cart or other reasonable uses of cookies. That’s why the concept of Track This has a certain logic: it’s not about preventing you from being followed and offered advertising, but preventing advertisers from following you correctly. Using this tool won’t reduce the amount of unsolicited advertising you receive; instead you’ll receive advertising that was not initially intended for a profile like yours.
An alternative is to use tracking blockers such as Ghostery or Blur, and also follow, at least if you are in Europe, the absurd ritual of establishing preferences every time you visit certain pages. You can supplement that with an ad blocker such as AdBlock Plus, AdBlock or others, in addition to regularly clearing cookies, a combination many of us have been using for a long time, but that still does not completely eliminate tracking and characterization. If anything, what I can say for sure after many years of teaching at many different levels, is that the people I see using this kind of tools are in general more internet-savvy that those who don’t. There’s a different way to browse the web, and those who do that without intrusive advertising, without being persistently profiled by advertisers look at the other bunch who consistently suffer that with a mix of commiseration and pity.
Track This is an interesting initiative, albeit one designed to show advertisers, the technology companies that develop tracking tools, and media and advertising agencies how wrong they are. An ecosystem in which this type of development takes place is a clear proof of illness, of unsustainability, of the impossibility of continuing with this type of approach. Track This should make a lot of people sit up and think.
Obfuscation and simulating false habits and profiles to confuse tracking tools is a reasonable reaction to certain worrying business practices. In this case, hyper-segmented advertising, something that instead of making our lives a misery, should benefit users, and that no longer even provides advertisers with trustworthy data, becoming a caricature of what it should have been.
(En español, aquí)