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AdNauseam – clicking ads so you don't have to (adnauseam.io)
276 points by JoachimS 54 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 164 comments

I can't believe we've accepted the term "ad fraud" for this, as if we were being any more deceptive than the ad industry is, or as if we had signed a contract that we violated.

As if not truthfully clicking on ads were a crime.

We don't owe advertisers anything, least of all the truth.

Click fraud is typically only used when you're the one receiving profits from the fake clicks. In which case fraud seems pretty appropriate.

That's not the way it is being used elsewhere in this thread. They're calling what Ad Nauseam does "ad fraud" and are saying how easy it is to spot and fight against.

Probably because the posters are working in an industry where click fraud is a serious business concern.

Can you point to an example of such a comment? I don't see anyone saying that what AdNauseum does is ad fraud, just that it's detectable via the same mechanisms that detect ad fraud.

I don't see anyone here saying that using AdNauseam is ad fraud (unless you're visiting your own site with it). What the other comments you seem to be referring to are saying is that AdNauseam's behavior is similar to ad fraud, and therefore detectable via the same mechanisms that detect ad fraud.

The term itself is perfectly reasonable. If you're intentionally clicking ads on your own site in order to mislead the advertising provider about your CTR and thus generate more revenue for yourself, that's clearly fraud.

> I can't believe we've accepted the term "ad fraud" for this

“Ad fraud” is widely accepted when automated clicks are done by or on behalf of someone getting paid for the ads (the site owner selling ad space, usually, as the advertising network, if they were going to defraud the party buying ad placement, would just as easily invent false numbers that employ automated clickers to juice their own stats.)

Other than that, no.

I can't believe we've accepted the term "ad fraud" for this

Did we?

It's being used elsewhere in this thread unchallenged. I felt compelled to challenge it.

To some people, nothing is a greater sin than disrupting market capitalism.

I think the general public doesn't really shed a tear for the advertising industry. Those who cry over this probably have a financial stake in ads&marketing.

They did say some. It is also what is sarcastically referred to as felony interference with a business model but that is a pretty niche term.

I had not heard that term, but oh my, wouldn't it be hilarious if some congress critters tried to get that written up as an actual law?

> have a financial stake in ads&marketing.

Don't we all have a stake in ads? You made me realize this because "cry over this" but I'm not in that industry at all and your sentence seemed to me like just an over-generalization made to justify your point of view.

I then remembered all the time that I couldn't have read/watch/learned something if I didn't have ads in the past, simply because I couldn't convince my parents to use their credit card (for valid reason though).

I remember all the time right I wouldn't have read/watch/learned simply because the risk of it being not worth it was too high even nowadays.

I remember all the time that I currently have to simply trust the comments over an article because it's behind a paywall and I just can't subscribe to every news website.

Actually I have a pretty big stake in this industry. I wouldn't have been the software engineer I am right now if it wasn't from the content that was subsidized by ads. The ones that made that content were also underage and were able to build a pretty big company out of it (Site du Zéro, they are now called OpenClassroom) that now employ an hundred employees (luckily they no longer depends on ads, but still it was what made them being able to breakthrough).

Many of us don't have a particular problem with advertising in general, it's mostly the surveillance aspect of it.

Your parents wouldn't or couldn't pay for things you wanted access to. Do you think they would have been okay with you trading your privacy instead?

And many of us do have a problem with advertising in general. Most people don't want to see ads. At best we put up with them or manage to ignore them. Very rarely, do we actively seek out ads. Usually we only do that when we get lots of entertainment from the ad itself, as in the Lego Movie

There has to be a better way to make sure the internet doesn't starve than ads, and not seeing that way doesn't mean that ads and manipulative marketing are inevitable.

But...unless the government is intervening, isn't this just capitalism at work?

Does using/developing AdNauseam somehow involve profit-seeking? Wage labour? Private property? What's capitalistic about it?

Not sure if this is useful or not but this has been discussed on HN a few times before, here are some of the most popular occasions:

"AdNauseam: Fight Back Against Advertising Networks and Privacy Abuse" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13222733

"AdNauseam – Clicking Ads So You Don't Have To" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15109251

"AdNauseam Banned from the Google Web Store" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13327228

"Pale Moon blocks AdNauseam extension" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15112524

You might even say it has been discussed here ad nauseam…

What sparked this repost is probably: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19278643

So every once in a while it get's reposted. Not bad perse.

Most of the ad networks already fight with ad fraud and validate clicks and redirects. Their technologies are very sophisticated. So I don't think that it does more harm to ad companies than to plugin users, who marked suspicious and fraud. There are already plenty of bots who scrape ads and click on them. By different estimates around 20-30% of web traffic is already caused by bots. As for me plugin is a kind of way to say how you hate ad market and web in general, nothing more.

I worked in adtech a few years ago, and AdNauseam-style click fraud is a relatively trivial to detect and ignore. It does nothing, and adtech companies don't care about your hate of online advertising the least because that's what brings in the cash.

Do you mind shedding light on how such click fraud is detected?

The most usual technique is to setup click baits/traps, once you click on a trap link you (= IP or UID via cookie) are added to an ignore list, where all your actions are not invoiced to advertisers. Simple and works,

This actually sounds ideal for me too. Please ignore me and stop tracking me.

They didn't say they stopped tracking you, just that they didn't charge the advertisers.

But in that case it still looks like an effective way of fighting that business model.

Or to receive more aggressive advertising/you are using ad nauseum overlays.

Aggressively advertising to someone you know hates ads is stupid. They'll just boycott you in spite.

LOL. Of course they're still charging the advertisers.

That sounds correct, don’t pay ad placements, but do charge advertisers. Right up there with usual adtech morals.

Off course traps is not the only technique. What's also checked: do you use datacenter IP or not, which country/location, does your browser footprint looks like what you send by headers and user agent, some may even validate if you move mouse like a human (check how recaptca works). And also take into account that adtech companies have a lot of statistics to analyze, so single click will not be detected, but thousands likely will be.

This is effective. After all that is said and done. Ad marketplaces stop bidding on your pageview (at least, the quality ones do). Over time fewer networks want your impression and the publisher ends up seeing a worse RoI on ads.

What would happen if there would be a popular extension that would share UID cookies between all its users?

That’s a great idea :)

How do you put an ad trap? A selenium bot only clicks on what a user can see... I doubt you could notice the difference

This extension doesn't use selenium, plus that's not entirely true, selenium sees HTML and DOM while a user sees the final render; there's ways you can hide content from a user while showing it to Selenium-style bots.

I thought selenium will throw an exception when an element being clicked is not actually visible.

If “ignore all clicks from a user that clicks >3 ads on a page” isn’t good enough for an ad network, it can add three or four ‘ads’ that technically are visible, but the same color as the page background. If a user clicks a few of them, ignore all clicks from that user on that page.

AdNauseam could detect that, too, but it gets exceedingly hard, slowing down the user’s browser. So, I think the ad network can win that battle.

Does it? I don't think you can reliably identify whether something is visible if the other site, which controls the CSS, does not want you to. It's a classical arms race situation.

    <span style="opacity: 0.001">Trap!</span>

Selenium can reliably do that, as it is a proper webbrowser controlled through an API

Yes, but it is not a human eye and brain.

Except that publishers will compare their own GA or MOAT data against what you’re reporting and wonder why the hell you’re reporting significantly fewer impressions than other networks and their own tools.

But how do you discern real users from fake ones? Do you search for specific plugins? And what about bots which are using headless sessions?

First like varelaz says, one important criteria is your ISP. MaxMind provides information whether you are "Corporate" or Residential. Generally when you are Corporate / Datacenter, you get into a low-quality tier or even no ads at all for some networks.

Users following invisible links are definitive bots but otherwise, the main idea is to verify the coherence of the headers, and verify if there is a difference between theoretical browser capabilities and reality.

The behaviour is not so important because advertising networks generally have frequency capping support per IP/UID.

Long time ago, lots of fraud bots used to use COM/MSHTML interfaces ( like https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/previous-versions/windows/i... ) so, even if declaring itself as Chrome, it was obviously an IE.

Now the fraud is more with Android WebViews.

It's very easy to distinguish two browsers, and the browsers that declare themselves "no tracking" are even easier to track in real-life scenario because their signature is very different.

Take two Safari iOS on the same 3G networks, it's very difficult to differentiate them, but take two Brave browsers and it's quite easy to track the user.

CasperJS/PhantomJS/Selenium bots are usually running with the default resolution and they leak some javascript properties like window._phantom, window.Buffer, window.emit or window.webdriver (selenium).

Sounds like I'd prefer a way to get my IP designated as corporate... Mediacom, wanna help? (haha)

Mission accomplished!

or xkcd #810

To add to what has been said in the other comments, even just a simple algorithme and stats can detect that. You don't even need a Machine Learning model. It's rare than someone clicks on ads, even more several times on the same one, and even more if it's several times every day. The behavior of the user will just look like an aberration on the chart with hundreds times more clicks than the next maximum.

Maybe I misinterpret, but this argumentation by you and some others that "this is easily detectable" is _exactly_ the good part. * They want to ignore me? Mission accomplished * They want to discard my clicks and subtract it from the payout? Mission accomplished etc. in any case they are playing the game for me.

"Good day sir, you lose, I said good day!"

Also, the revenue of large ad platforms are pretty correlated with efficacy, because of conversion tracking and competitive bidding. IE, advertisers pay $x per widget sale. If a widget sale requires twice as many clicks because of fake clicks, the market will react pretty efficiently halve the price of clicks.

It's not perfect and adding noise/volatility bothers the industry, but it will be really hard to affect much at scale.

..maybe targeting one industry at a time, causing mayhem, and going after advertiser confidence in the platforms.

Halving the price of clicks makes the ad market less valuable. Publishers getting less money means publishers switching to a different marketplace or ditching ad-based revenue altogether. Also not likely to happen unless it’s at scale, but the point is cheaper clicks are make for a weaker ad market.

The number of clicks also doubles

if my profile is marked as suspicious or fraud, does that mean they stop sending ads to me?


This extension made me switch to Firefox after Chrome banned it from their store.

I have it set to "don't click on non-tracking Ads" and "don't hide non-tracking Ads".

Ads are fine. Tracking is not.

I switched to Safari, after Chrome started automatically login you to Chrome account if you login to gmail. They become too aggressive on tracking.

I am thankful for Safari. Opinion: Safari is underrated.

Chrome banned it, but you can still install it. They link to https://github.com/dhowe/AdNauseam/wiki/Install-AdNauseam-on...

Good thing they have such settings for non-tracking ads.

So worse than just not supporting sites you visit (via blocking or not clicking), you actively harm their conversion rate on ads, making their slots worth less to networks. Super.

So maybe that's good if you want to encourage sites to find other business models that don't rely on advertisement.

I think this is an argument you could reasonably make if you give your money to web-sites that you find valuable.

Otherwise, the argument seems to be a case of "I don't like the way you got money/attention out of me", or "I want someone else to pay for the content I consume".

I think that would be more valid if paid versions could actually be relied upon to not track or advertise as opposed to being complete greedy morons who think "People willing to pay to not be advertised to? That must be a valueable target to market to!". I seriously wish that was just a strawman.

As long as "merchants" have the option of claiming both it undermines the idea of paying as an alternative which also undermines the paid plus data option. To use a crude but apt simile paying for an escort is paying for silence and discretion - that is why they are more expensive. (Regardless of client and worker sex and/or gender.)

Piracy was a decent demonstration of the hard facts of the (illicit) market - all of the draconian enforcement and DRM didn't make a dent in demand but improved distribution and fairer prices did. Just like how most people don't change their own oil from it being a hassle iTunes and Steam did more to reduce illegal downloads than any enforcement efforts.

> Otherwise, the argument seems to be a case of "I don't like the way you got money/attention out of me", or "I want someone else to pay for the content I consume".

You are consuming content from me this very moment, I charge you zero dollars for it. Believe it or not, the web actually was like that at some point: not connecting producers to consumers but connecting human beings, who could produce or consume as they pleased. This was before the people with things to sell arrived.

This kind of shooting-the-shit content is a small subset of what makes the web useful. You are not spending time and money investigating anything of consequence and then reporting it for free, are you? Few people are. We all need to make a living, and a lot of things cannot be done by amateurs alone.

And the beautiful thing about the internet is that you have the control over your own hardware to do something like this. You’re entitled to click, not click, delete, block whatever element on whatever website you want.

The argument for me is "I can pay for content with money. It can be zero money or nonzero money but I want to pay with money."

Sure, and thats fair enough. I support a youtuber on patreon for quite a bit more than my share of ad-revenue. His patreons may be a very low percentage of his overall viewers, but even that low-percentage pays more than ad-revenue of all of them

This would be great if sites you could pay for actually exited. Ad ran sites monopolized the internet.

Or, more practically, maybe conversion rate just isn’t a good metric for determining the “value of a slot to the network.”

I think it would make the "pay per click" option disappear, leaving only the "pay per view". And you would determine conversion rate from the view, not the click.

This has already happened mostly. CPC ain’t what it used to be.

How many sites would you actually pay for?

Well, maybe a subscription for every site is not the right business model, we could imagine a lot of different ones. For example, automatic tipping when you spend more than x minutes on a website (something similar to what brave is trying to do), or pay by article (a few cents) on news sites.

Eventually people won't be able to subscribe to every site they want content from obviously. Look at netflix / hulu / amazon videos / youtube red ... It adds up very quickly.

Trying to convince me to set up a subscription upon any visit (and especially upon the first visit) isn't gonna be very effective. It requires thought and some calculations.

"Liked it? Pay me $2" is a way more simple decision to make. If I make it to the end of your content and see a PayPal.me (or Ko-fi) link, there's a reasonable chance I'm going to click on it. I can't say the same for links to Patreon.

There could actually be a sweet spot for ApplePay (and similar service) there. Quick anonymous and secure tips for website.

I wouldn't really like to manage multiple subscriptions, but what I would be willing to do is pay for membership to a service which offers me access to a wide variety of ad-free websites. Kind of like how a cable subscription gets me access to a large number of channels (but without the commercials).

Shameless plug for Blendle, they provide access to a bunch of news sites with a pay-per-article system. It's a handy way to get around many paywalls without subscribing to many sites individually.

I don't know

But I know I will keep blocking ads because they slow down the website and consume a lot of bandwidth

The most useful ones are already free. So, probably none that I don't already. Development resources (free, hosted by companies with incentive to spread the info). Wikipedia. Rarely I still manage to stumble on some non-monetized hobbyist sites, despite their being hard to find under current search algos (infrequent updates, no attention to SEO, no padding things to look like "more unique content per page" to Google), and that's nice.

The rest I already pay for (Netflix, which just barely skates by being so cheap), are essentially utility things (bank sites, government), or are so low-value I'd probably be better off not using them, frankly. Or are simply piracy sites (library genesis / scihub), for that matter.

Any topic I scratch the surface of in online research I end up at excellent, totally free (not ad supported) resources or finding that I need to track down some books, or some combination of the two.

I look at it this way: some sites might be worth paying for, none are worth being tracked for or being eye-raped by ads. I don't know why anyone would think it is a good idea to try and make money on something no one is willing to pay for.

About the adnauseam topic: while paywalled sites makes it clear that you need to pay for their content or services, the one with ads don't. You are candidly browsing the web and suddenly they just shove tons of trackers and ads down your browser, no question asked.

This is read by some people as an act of war, who are then motivated to retaliate using weapons like adnauseam. Of course they should just ignore or block the whole websites in questions, but no one can pretend they drew first blood.

The ones I would actually use.

Most of them. And the ones I wouldn't pay for I wouldn't miss.


It is not as simple as your one line comment suggests.

Other than sabotage, you can also "encourage" sites to find other business models by visiting other sites instead. You know, the ones that don't rely on advertisement. You might need to pay for those, but that's okay because you support alternative business models.

"Pay money up front, or take all these ads, and no there is NO other way, nu-uh. NO other way. So it is really your choice, but only these 2"

Yeah that is not really a good argument is it?

No, the straw man argument you constructed and I in no way implied is not really a good argument.

Most websites use ads (which contain malware or redirect to scam websites a lot of times), tracking, and sell user data to third party. The point of this addon is to harm these ad networks. I know websites need money to run but most don't even give you the choice. Following a trend is no excuse for doing that in my opinion.

Seriously: when was the last time you were infected with malware from ads? This is a talking point from a different millennium.

Almost the same for redirects, at least for reputable publishers that will be most harmed by this.

This attitude has already resulted in almost all professional, reliable news sources to implement (metered) paywalls. So instead of being informed by dozens of sources, citizens now get their news from just reading the headlines on Facebook, or sometimes the single site they are willing to pay for.

You can't make decisions at the voting booth without being informed. This is such an obvious harm to the fabric of democracy.

Populism, corruption, and authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. But at least you're not being annoyed by some ads.

> This is such an obvious harm to the fabric of democracy.

Ads are an obvious harm to the fabric of democracy. If a news organization depends on ads, advertisers have power over it. Ads make the press less independent.

The reason why malware isn't as much of a problem is because of the blocking - it wasn't big class actions or criminal charges that got them to clean up more. The vulnerability is still there so it gets blocked as basic self defense. Malware infections increase conversion rates for the blockers.

> Seriously: when was the last time you were infected with malware from ads? This is a talking point from a different millennium.

I still see this very frequently. I work in tech, so broadly speaking, I'm less likely to find my machine infected by malware from ads because I know enough not to fall for their tricks. Smart, but less technical, friends and family end up with malware infected devices all the time due to malvertising.

> This attitude has already resulted in almost all professional, reliable news sources to implement (metered) paywalls. So instead of being informed by dozens of sources, citizens now get their news from just reading the headlines on Facebook, or sometimes the single site they are willing to pay for.

I'd actually posit that the reverse is true. Because advertising pays publishers for reader's eyeballs regardless of the quality of content on their websites, fake news and clickbait are rampant. Harmful news outlets flourish because they don't need to convince anyone to pay for their bullshit stories - just get enough people to click or share. If they relied on users paying to read their stories, I reckon a lot of ad-supported extremist sites would die overnight. There shouldn't be a financial incentive to drive clicks and shares regardless of content quality.

> You can't make decisions at the voting booth without being informed.

True, but that doesn't mean traditional "professional, reliable news sources" are the best (or only) way for people to gain the necessary information. Especially after the massive merging of media businesses over the last few decades, the reliability of these "professionals" has suffered.

> This is such an obvious harm to the fabric of democracy.

You have that backwards; it's surveillance capitalism - that is currently ruining democracy[1].

[1] http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/shoshana-zuboff-q-and...

Awesome, advertising is terrible.

This doesn’t work. Its very easily caught and actually makes you more trackable because of the extra interaction signals.

Stick with the normal ad blockers.

Can you elaborate more on how it can be caught and make users more trackable? Even if there are more "signals", individual advertisers won't necessarily be able to know that the same user clicked on all other advertisers' links.

Networks generally keep clickstream information a longer period of time than requests stream because requests can be counted in terms of billions per day and eventually very expensive to store. When you visit a website, your request may normally be stored like 3 days, but when you click, it may be stored 3 months.

Yea and eventually these advertisers decide you’re a bot and stop bidding on your pageview. That sounds like a win to me. They’re not going to waste their money serving to automated traffic.

Has anyone reported that they stopped seeing ads because nobody wanted to bid on them? You'll always find a bidder if the CPM is low enough.

I think if anything, you'll see more and more shady ads because you are now remnant inventory. Ads for scams, targeted to super cheap RPM groups.

As more web pages you visit, as more tracking markers you've get. Yes, your tracking history will be skewed because of random clicking, it's kind of GIGO effect, but such kind of junk data is very easy to filter out. When you clicking on everything you provide too much events, which become suspicious and irrelevant. Also all clicks are made in background, which means that there is no rendering, no view tracking, which is obviously easy to catch. Check how vCPM and viewability work.

The question is: so what? Networks filtering out your pageview is an objective of this extension, and like you said, any network worth its price is going to actively monitor for automated traffic. They’re not going to bid on known bots.

Note that AdNauseam allows you to configure probabilistic clicking so that it's harder to filter out.

Once your IP is detected as fraud it's trivial. There are various ways to do this. For example invisible links that you cannot click unless you're bot.

Perfect, mission accomplished ;)

I used it for a time, but it gets you blocked by plenty of filters and makes captchas extra suspicious.

I have hardened my browser for privacy and now CAPTCHA hates me.

Its an arms race and I think the advertising industry knows that eventually people will give up.

I don't believe users will lose this arms race. I don't have hard data, but from what I observe in various circles is that the Zeitgeist is that the user/consumer attention is valuable, content is cheap, so put up barriers and the user will bounce

The sad part is that this commoditization of content ends up affecting the quality content, that will probably end up becoming a niche market. Charge per content and the user will bounce, charge per month and you have to be the biggest because of network effects (try recommending a series from Amazon Prime to someone who subscribes to Netflix)

There is a trend to use ads disguised as content ("People are using this secret trick to earn mad $$ in [oddly specific location, close to you]"), or intertwined with content that is yet immune to ad blocking(like ads in the middle of youtube videos/podcasts), but that has a higher production and negotiation cost, it will probably not be a market as big as ad networks.

EDIT: Just remembered about ads on smartphone apps which are a viable option due to the lack of user control over hardware and software. There are some solutions, but these are much harder than installing a browser extension and thus not as widely adopted.

Which is one reason why they are pushing lusers toward phones and away from desktops.

so what if they can mark you as a bot. I'd love to be marked as bot so nobody wants to serve ads to me. that's mission accomplished.

welcome to captcha

Amazing concept. My only problem is the permissions it's asking while I tried to install it on firefox.

- Access your data for all websites [You could take away my passwords]

- Download files and read and modify the browser’s download history [Why?]

- Access browser activity during navigation [Why?]

Perhaps instead they could build a central store of potential ad clicks and their base rate likelihood of being clicked. Then, instead of clicking everything, they could click ads at the same rates an average user would, across the network.

This is not the right way to go about making anything better about the internet.

Why isn't it?

One kind of fraud that I suspect exist but I hear less talk about here is fraud against advertisers;

Last time I clicked and bought something from an ad was 5 years ago. It costed me about USD 30. Either I'm totally extraordinary (not likely) or this is true for huge parts of the rest of ad viewers as well. I also suspect that there is a connection between disposable income and resistance against ads.

More specifically I suspect ad networks fleece dumb and inexperienced ad buyers buy selling ads they know cannot work.

I view online advertising similar to advertising in a print magazine. Brand/product awareness. Occasionally ads are quite relevant to me, such as travel savings.

Measuring conversion, customer acquisition cost (CAC), and comparing that to their life-time value (LTV) is standard practice, so a business naive enough not to measure the performance of their campaigns is not going to last long.

It seems the approach here is to reduce the click-data value to zero, because every ad is clicked. How about just removing clicks all together?

Maybe about a browser extension that loads every ad, but there are no clicks. Preferably the browser makes the ad un-clickable (if it's visible at all).

Now you've got advertisers spending money on creatives, building campaigns, bandwidth, monitoring/management, etc. but there's an almost zero chance of generating revenue. Would that be more effective?

There is already adblock and ublock.

This is preventing the ad campaigns from building a database about your personal preferences, building a profile on you. Also this way the advertisers are spending even more money, by paying for those clicks. If the goal is to make advertisement cost more or provide some sort of political statement, then this is surely more effective. (Regardless of whether the goal is really that great.)

Increasing cost was the thought, yes. I admit I'm not totally up-to-speed on what adblock and ublock do, but I was under the impression that they don't load the ads. So while you wouldn't see them, there's also no cost to serving them.

Edit: But are the advertisers really paying for those clicks? Reading through the thread, it seems like these get flagged as fraud pretty easily. So while there's still a cost to create/serve the ads, to the point of my question, it would seem they don't pay the websites for the clicks.

What is a "visit"? Is it executing JavaScript on the page it visits, and acting completely like a normal browser? If not, trivial to detect?

I'm okay with not running an ad blocker but what I really wish somebody would do is block the obnoxious clickbait "<insert your town here> guy in his thirties found this one weird way to make < insert the last thing you bought on Amazon>!!!" and it has a picture of some some heavily photoshopped model.

I agree that obnoxious, vile-quality ads deserve to be combated by the recipient as though on a war footing.

Next up for anti-ad-block: if user clicks an irrelevant ad, block services.

"Install AdNauseam 3.7"

3rd party ads are bad for privacy. But browser extensions are even worse. They can see everything you do on any website. They can change what you see. Redirect you. Send data wherever they want. Without you noticing any of this.

Besides, using this thing result in sending even more data to the advertisers.

I can understand the hate about how user hostile the web is. But this is not a solution. A solution would be to use bloated websites less.

On HN, we could downrank pages that send data to 3rd parties like this: Tell the submitter of a page "The page loads sends data to 75 different servers. Please be aware that we will not show it on the front page until it has at least 75 upvotes".

This would make an impact.

Imagine Reddit or Twitter follwing this practice. The web would become better fast.

> But browser extensions are even worse. They can see everything you do on any website.

Using an operating system is even worse than that. It can do everything. Browser extensions are not bad for privacy, untrustworthy software is.

You may have a point when it comes to proprietary niche extensions with an anonymous author. This is a fairly well-known open source extension made by multiple people whose real identity is known and who have a reputation to lose.

> Besides, using this thing result in sending even more data to the advertisers.

Yes, garbage data.

Except it's way easier to trust a bunch of extensions that the entire community vets, with a code you can inspect, instead of the thousands of ever changing 3rd party code executing in ads every day.

> the entire community vets

Pardon my ignorance, but not every extension is open source? Recently been a few stories of popular extension maintainers offered money to either include coffee or hand over all control to shady people.

Personally I wouldn't count thousands getting auto-updated malware installed in their browser before the world notices as vetting.

Not but this one is. A lot of popular extensions are.

And even the ones that are not are quite easy to read:

- extensions are a just a zip file full of static assets

- they are rarely minified or obfuscaded

- they use a manifest and a set of standard API

- they are distributed through one plateform

So it's still way easier to keep them in check than ads, even if we didn't have to take the number of them in consideration.

> Pardon my ignorance, but not every extension isnt open source right?

No, but this one is.

I realize that and even gave it a try long ago, the comment was meant in general.

Besides ublock origin and noscript I avoid extensions like the plague. Autoupdates mean that any malicious actor could infect many before it gets pulled.

First of all, it's the other way round. This extension will execute the ads and send data to advertisers. If you don't want that, you need to use an ad blocker, not an ad clicker.

And second, you trust them with totally different things. Ads run in the context of a website. Which is heavily sandboxed. Extensions run outside of it and can do anything they want to your browsing.

> 3rd party ads are bad for privacy. But browser extensions are even worse.

Nope. I willingly installed a browser extension. Waaay more different than clicking a link to site X and 3rd party injecting itself.

> Besides, using this thing result in sending even more data to the advertisers.

That's precisely the point? Increasing the amount of noise so that the signal couldn't be detected?

> But this is not a solution. A solution would be to use bloated websites less.

Okay, the rest is just laughable. Between "install X and make your computer download less bloatware" and "don't install X, but publicly name-and-shame websites", the first one requires way less effort from me and provides me with the solution now, not after the social media backlash is big enough for the website owners to give enough of a crap.

I trust popular extentions that are open-source and have been well-reviewed far more than any advertiser or tracking network.

This is one of those times I just sit down and think: "Damn... such an obviously good/bad idea".

I am really proud of humanities ability to be creative.

This is genius! Use people's resources to click on ads without them knowing, brand it as "obfuscation", profit!

The trouble is this helps sustain the ad delivery ecosystem. Simply blocking ads does more to effect change.

Yeah, unless the extension is used by a significant portion of the users, this a probably pushing numbers up a bit for networks.

Amazing idea and clever name.

Any traffic you give them is just another datapoint to sell.

So they can target you as someone who hates ads?

I'm in advertising and I'm not sure I get the hate towards ads.

I mean, anyone here does not have a business? Do you really expect to build a company based on product quality and the ocasional blog post? I guarantee you that 99% of postmorten posts posted in HN are because said startup couldn't figure out their marketing strategy.

Anyways, isn't this click fraud?

The problem is that advertising is shifting towards manipulation. Facebook and co can target so well their users, and do brain research to understand how to most effectively make someone want a product, or click on an ad, or buy a service..

Also, we suspect cases of political manipulations through advertisement channels (remember cambridge analytica ?)

Before, advertisement was just sensitization to a brand, making people know it. Today, it's much more, and I find it absolutely horrifying.

Also, ads are very annoying when they prevent you to enjoy the content, and block half of the page, as it is the case in a lot of sites.

(please excuse the language, not native speaker)

It was almost always manipulation; recall all the old cigarette ads featuring doctors.

This is more a lie than a manipulation (and is punished by law, at least in some country). But you are right that even without targeting, ads could hurt people.

That's now illegal in many countries (not that tactic, just advertising for cigarettes). Faking legitimacy by implication of (spurious) association with something seen as trustworthy is unfortunately entirely legal, as far as I know.

If they weren't outcompeted by inferior products with better ads, due to ads being banned due to being universally hated by anyone not making money from ads, maybe they could be able to build a company on product quality. What a nightmare scenario.

> Anyways, isn't this click fraud?

Absolutely not. We don't have any sort of contractual or business relationship. The only way this could be "click fraud" is if someone hosting ads used adnauseam to fraudulently enrich themselves.

> I'm not sure I get the hate towards ads.

Advertising shifted into an industry based on tracking literally everything they are able to track. This has started shifting our economy from the traditional forms of capitalism that were built on mass-production, finance, etc into surveillance capitalism, which is currently undermining democracy[1].

> I'm in advertising

Then please, read [1] and maybe consider the long-term, far-reaching "unintended consequences" of creating an economy based on ubiquitous surveillance.

[1] http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/02/shoshana-zuboff-q-and...

This is not click fraud because it's users clicking, not publishers.

I used to work in advertising. On the rare occasion we were deploying display ads the most common complaint was: it doesn't show up. The reason was that literally everyone, from developers, designers, to project managers, account managers and the client has been blocking ads.

In Poland ~90% of desktop browsers, and >50% of all browsers (desktop+mobile+tablets) have some kind of ad blocking enabled. Only 9% of users will allow ads when the website asks them to, most will always (43%) or usually (30%) leave the the website.

Anyways I agree this plugin is just click fraud.

> In Poland ~90% of desktop browsers, and >50% of all browsers (desktop+mobile+tablets) have some kind of ad blocking enabled.

That's surprisingly high. Do you know if ad blocking is more common in Poland than elsewhere?

Yes, Poland has one of the highest percentages of ad blocking users in the world.

Historically it was also a bastion of Firefox - in pre-Chrome days it has had >50% market penetration, and Opera was also widely popular compared to other countries, AFAIR peaking at ~15% (ironically, even when it had a paid and ad-supported versions, many users were using the ad-supported Opera). Even now Firefox has 15% market share in Poland vs ~5% globally. I don't know if it's related or has a common cause, but this just higlights that some local markets can be very specific.

Edit: January stats for desktop browsers: Chrome 50.52%, Firefox 31.02%, Opera 7.30%, Edge 4.66%, IE 4.15%

Overall stats (incl. mobile devices): Mobile Chrome 33.69%, Desktop Chrome 26.16%, Firefox 14.94%, Safari Mobile 5.80%, Samsung Browser 4.87%

Peter Popoff probably had a hard time understanding why people had a problem with his activities as well.


> tracking of your interests to get you better, more relevant advertising is good.

Tracking of my interest so advertisers can manipulate me better is not good. It also means that advertising is more profitable, so it occurs more often, and websites get less usable as a result.

Companies, by proxy, are agents of the government. Anything a company collects and saves can come to be held by the government. Some companies even require a warrant before they give the government said information.

That's ridiculous and it's not a stretch to take what you're saying and turn it into:

"People, by proxy, are agents of the government. Anything a person collects and saves can come to be held by the government"

While the government can strong-arm entities (fictitious or natural), it doesn't make its victims "agents".

Unnecessary recording still serves surveillance - the best way to keep data private is to never gather or record it.

That's a fantastic point and I agree 100%.

>Tracking by government is dangerous, tracking of your interests to get you better, more relevant advertising is good.


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