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Awful Or Awesome?: This Browser Extension Clicks Every Ad To Confuse The System

AdNauseam clicks every online ad on every page you visit, all in the name of privacy.

Awful Or Awesome?: This Browser Extension Clicks Every Ad To Confuse The System
[Photo: Flickr user Chris Potter]

What if someone told you the way to fight online advertising–and the companies who make money by tracking all your surfing habits–was to click on all the ads? That’s the idea behind AdNauseam, and it’s just so crazy that it might actually work–in theory at least.

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As you visit different sites AdNauseam silently clicks every ad on every page. The idea is that if you’re always clicking every ad, the targeting and tracking that these advertising companies are doing won’t work or be as effective because you are overwhelming them with false data.

Is this browser extension the superhero that citizens of the Internet have been waiting for, or a vigilante doing more harm than good? AdNauseam is hoping to obfuscate the data users are generating as they browse online. Its stated goal is also to amplify “users discontent” with advertising networks that blatantly ignore their privacy.

The reasoning for AdNauseam stems from the shortcomings of the Do Not Track standard and similar efforts. Which, if comics have taught us anything, puts the new browser extension much closer to the vigilante than a true superhero.

The move of trying to force change with questionable methods serves to excite people, but it also creates a dividing line. Searching Twitter and reading thread comments quickly shows a split between those in support and those who think it’s an unwise move. Whichever side of the fence you come down on, it’s likely one you feel passionate about the subject.

Another recent project attempting to stop the tracking of people from online advertising is Floodwatch. Instead of clicking all the ads, Floodwatch simply collects all the ads and makes the information more visible and sortable to the person being tracked. It’s hoping, however, that people are willing to share that data with the group so that something can be done about the intrusive behaviors advertising networks are using.

Floodwatch allows collected ads to be viewed and sorted by network, color, brand, or through a number of other criteria. It also allows the amount of ads to be shown over time so that people can see the how their browsing directly affects which ads they’re seeing.

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Because Floodwatch serves more as research than something with immediate action, it’s a little harder to have the same level of passion for it that users do for AdNauseam. Either way, both are among a new crop of different options for people that are sick of having their browsing serve as a intermediary between themselves and whoever wants deeper information.

For those interested, AdNauseam is currently an alpha build and only available for Firefox browsers, but will be released as a public beta on November 15th.

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About the author

Tyler Hayes is a Southern California native, early technology adopter, and music enthusiast.

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