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Student Project Could Kill Digital Ad Targeting 177

Posted by Soulskill
from the send-spike-...-spike-sent dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from Ad Age: "[Rachel Law's] creation, called 'Vortex,' is a browser extension that's part game, part ad-targeting disrupter that helps people turn their user profiles and the browsing information into alternate fake identities that have nothing to do with reality. People who use the browser tool, which works with Firefox and Chrome, effectively confuse the technologies that categorize web audiences into likely running shoe buyers, in-market auto buyers, or moms interested in cooking and football. ... It's a bit like the ad blocker extensions of yore, except it scrambles information to trick ad targeters, all in service of an addictive game deemed 'Site Miner,' which allows players to fish for cookies visualized as sea creatures. Players can gobble up cookies Pac-Man style, creating a pool of profile information that has nothing to do with their actual web behavior. ... Vortex features a profile switcher that people can use and share to take on a new identity while browsing the web. 'It's a way of masking your identity across networks,' she said."
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Student Project Could Kill Digital Ad Targeting

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  • I'm Sparticus! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Thud457 (234763) on Friday July 05, 2013 @01:09PM (#44195987) Homepage Journal
    to paraphrase Tyler Durden:
    You are not your cookie trail.
  • I'm not sure why I should hate targeted ads. I actually see ads for things I'm interested in... instead of random stuff. The tracking, ad infinitum, has always been going on, will always be going on.
    • Exactly my feelings. It is one thing to block the ads completely — they waste my bandwidth and RAM, slow down page-loading, and degrade my privacy. But if any ad makes it through anyway, I'd rather it be related to something I may be remotely interested in.

      • by KiloByte (825081) on Friday July 05, 2013 @02:13PM (#44196603)

        >quote>But if any ad makes it through anyway, I'd rather it be related to something I may be remotely interested in.

        I'd rather spend time making sure it won't get through the next time.

      • by dcollins (135727)

        "I want the brainwashing used against me to be highly effective."

        • by mi (197448)
          I grew up in the USSR and have not become a Communist. I then moved to the US and ended up in the Northeastern part of it. In the twenty years here I have not become a Socialist (read Communist-light) either.

          In other words, I think, I'm quite resistant to brainwashing, thank you very much...

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        I'd rather get random ads.

        you see, what kind of random stimulation are you going to get from seeing the same ads all the fucking time?

        whole point of advertising gets kind of lost if nike is only advertising to fans of nike. if they're fans on facebook, da fuq do they need to be reminded that nike exists??

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I agree completely, and I'm always amazed when people get so upset every time advertisers learn to target better. I can only guess it has something to do with lack of willpower. People know hey are susceptible to advertising and get mad because they know they are going to get "tricked" out of their money, or something like that.

      • It's not the goal - targeted advertisements - that offends me; it is the method. I simply do not like the idea of there being a profile of me available to anyone who wants it. This is increasingly useful data to not only marketers, but insurance companies, employers, banks, governments, criminals, and other unsavory sorts. I'd like to believe I'm not being targeted by any of them right now, but who knows what the future holds? And there's no telling into whose hands it will fall, either due to loose ethics

    • IME, the targeted ads are only slightly better than the random stuff. Lately, I've been getting a lot of ads for stuff I recently bought. Obviously, I'm interested, but I've already bought the damn product!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Seriously, WTF people?

      On top of that, all these extensions to block ads are going to end up backfiring in a huge way. When sites start to lose significant amounts of money, they're going to move to more and more annoying and integrated ads, until the ads become indistinguishable from the content itself. That's just making the web worse for everyone.

      So block the annoying ads, let the non-annoying ones through, and don't destroy the internet.

      • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday July 05, 2013 @01:43PM (#44196317) Homepage

        When sites start to lose significant amounts of money, they're going to move to more and more annoying and integrated ads, until the ads become indistinguishable from the content itself..

        I still won't see them, and if they hate their users that much then I probably won't care if they collapse.

      • In response, let me counter with these three arguments:

        1) This is not an attack against advertising; it is an attack against /targeted/ advertising. Seeing as how the marketing industry thrived for decades without this technology, I think that the lack will not hurt them significantly. Websites can still put up advertisement banners that have worth to the readership (based on the content of the website) rather than relying on targeting specific ads at people based on a profile.

        2) Websites that use more obt

      • If everyone hears this gospel and follows it, then you're right. However, we all know what's going to happen. Ad blocking methods are going to increase, and YOU PERSONALLY viewing the unintrusive ads is going to be as effective as you pissing at the edge of the Sahara desert to make it green. Except for that metaphor to work, you'd have to get sunburned on your dick while doing it.

        Well, anyway, all you'd be doing is viewing annoying ads. The really annoying ones are still coming due to the tragedy of
      • by tqk (413719)

        So block the annoying ads, let the non-annoying ones through, and don't destroy the internet.

        Hilarious. You crack me up. As if the Internet was nothing until the ad dollars showed up. Ha. Ha.

      • by Kergan (780543)

        Seriously, WTF people?

        On top of that, all these extensions to block ads are going to end up backfiring in a huge way. When sites start to lose significant amounts of money, they're going to move to more and more annoying and integrated ads, until the ads become indistinguishable from the content itself. That's just making the web worse for everyone.

        So block the annoying ads, let the non-annoying ones through, and don't destroy the internet.

        Meh. Too late. AdBlock Plus is already receiving sponsorships/bribes to let "quality" ads through:

        http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=de&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.horizont.at%2Fhome%2Fdetail%2Fgoogle-ist-geldgeber-von-adblock-plus.html&act=url [google.com]

    • by sjames (1099)

      Sometimes they're not just targeted but also tailored. Consider if the prices get jacked up if your browsing history suggests you have disposable income...

    • Untargeted ads are easier to ignore and thus less distracting. I don't want to train my eyes to look over towards the ad section of a webpage. I'd rather get in for the stuff I visited for and then get out. It's hard enough in this day of ever-present ads and neuromarketing to keep attention where I want it.

      Plus, assuming targeted ads actually work as designed, I don't want to be encouraged to consume stuff I wouldn't have consumed without the ads. Studies have shown that we have a limited reservoir of

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'll give you one reason: echo chamber. I don't particularly like seeing ads at all (yes, it's the price for "free" content); however, I like to broaden my perspective on the world. If I receive targeted ads for items that are of interest to me and a very small slice of society, I'm at terrible risk for mis-perceiving society at large. For example, I don't like (almost any) hip hop music. But I don't want to be denied the opportunity to be informed (via ads) that much of the rest of "western civilizatio

      • by kermidge (2221646)

        re echo chamber, a good, overlooked point. Too much customization restricts worldview, which I don't see as a good thing.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Friday July 05, 2013 @01:41PM (#44196293) Homepage

      I'm not sure why I should hate targeted ads. I actually see ads for things I'm interested in... instead of random stuff.

      Nice theory.

      What actually happens is you only ever see ads for something you bought two years ago and have no intention of buying again. Either that or something you looked at once and thought "How can people be so stupid...?" then you spend the next six months seeing dancing adverts for it.

    • I'm not sure why I should hate targeted ads. I actually see ads for things I'm interested in... instead of random stuff

      Because its all a form offensive psychological attack, in which the advertiser believes he can overpower you and often does. Why participate in that?

      Targeted ads are just a refinement; like a 500 lb JDAM instead of a 2000 lb Mk83. It'll still destroy you just as well.

      If you need a thing you'll go out and search for it. If you don't need it, don't subject yourself to psychological attack.

    • by saihung (19097)

      If I do a search for a specific preamp somewhere, I see targeted ads for EXACTLY THAT PREAMP everywhere I browse. And even though I already bought it, I keep seeing those ads everywhere. It's annoying. And creepy.

    • by vux984 (928602)

      I actually see ads for things I'm interested in...

      The goal of advertising and marketing is to convince you to buy their product, convince you that you want to buy it. To implant a brand name so when you think of a product you think of them, or trigger an impulse purchase.

      It is literally a form of brainwashing with the end result of separating you from your money.

      Only a complete idiot would willing participate by making it easier for marketers to get inside their heads.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      I'm not sure why I should hate targeted ads. I actually see ads for things I'm interested in... instead of random stuff.

      Because the more you consume, the less you can save up, and the more dependent you are of maintaining your current job and/or the goodwill of your debtors, thus making you ever more helplessly bound and enslaved. Thus an ad should be considered an attempt to put another chain on you, an attack on your freedom, and a targeted ad a more effective attack.

      The tracking, ad infinitum, has alway

    • by allo (1728082)

      no, they are not.

      An ads wants to make you buy stuff, which you did not want to buy before. Some ads may make you buy stuff you really wanted, but in a specific store. The stuff there will be more expensive, because they need to pay for the ads somehow. And if they got you to click an ad, the chances for a sale are higher than normal anyway. Do you remember the site, which gave appleusers higher prices? So much on the topic of targeted ads ...

  • It's a cookie mixer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Friday July 05, 2013 @01:18PM (#44196069) Homepage

    I'd thought of doing that as part of one of my browser add-ons, but it has problems. The general idea is that you send your cookies to a central site which sends them out to others to confuse tracking. As the article says, "The Vortex system will build a database of cookies gathered by players." So you've traded multiple limited data collection systems for one central one. There are a number of obvious ways that can backfire.

    Just turn off third party cookies. Or run Abine's Do Not Track Me.

    • by Drewdad (1738014)

      Just turn off third party cookies. Or run Abine's Do Not Track Me.

      The problem with that is they may be able to profile you based on your having cookies disabled.

      "This guy's a privacy freak, let's give him ads for browsing anonymously...."

    • by slashkitty (21637)
      Sounds interesting in theory, but cookies are used all different sorts of ways. One the of more important is login and identification. If this game swaps login or other personalization cookies with another person you could loose your identity!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    but my alternate identity can't get enough of it!

  • Why are they pestering the user to be involved in the process? Just do it and don't bother me.

  • When ad filters are on the offensive.
  • Yeah I went looking for the plugin before reading the article. It's not available yet.

    It's probably just a concept at the moment, and someone will probably code and release a plugin that does this or worse to advertisers before she releases hers in September.

  • This is a cool proof of concept, but it seems a bit unneeded, after all, doesn't everyone block ads? I mean, aside from on my phone (although adblocking is enabled on my browser) I never see an ad.
    • by Trepidity (597)

      I don't think most people block ads, unless you restrict "people" to tech-savvy people.

      On the other hand, most of the people who don't block ads will also not install this browser addon.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      I don't browse on my phone, only play some games or use other apps.

      I see advertising when I happen to have wifi on (no mobile data) - and what I notice time and again is that the advertising is exclusively for other apps. No general products or brands are being advertised, only other apps, and those apps are either games or gambling related things.

      Which makes me wonder: is it really me? Or is it geographically different? Or do general advertisers really shun the mobile in-app advertising realm?

  • How long before the student who designed this project is labeled a terrorist?

    And anything that blocks ads or tracking will be categorized as a "munition" and made illegal to possess or use?

  • by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Friday July 05, 2013 @01:44PM (#44196333)
    I would like to think in this day and age people are mature enough to ignore targeted ads.
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      If they ignore them, the ads are obviously irrelevant, and the targeting failed. If an ad is really relevant and useful for the user, they wouldn't be ignored.

      • by Murdoch5 (1563847)
        Hence the problem is the users and not the ad companies. You can't keep blaming everyone else when you can't do something, if your weak your weak and deal with it, don't always cry for your mommy to come over and deal with it.
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      That's only the most minor of problems with targeted ads.

      1. Ad company builds a database on you, sells it to anyone willing to pay $0.00001/victim.

      2. You invite a friend round and the stupid targeted ads try to expose you as a pervert who is into diet pills and is looking for a dubious loan.

      3. Shopping sites show you higher prices because they think you have money, based on the profile of you they bought.

      4.Your health insurance premiums go up because your profile suggests you take drugs and enjoy using powe

  • by swschrad (312009) on Friday July 05, 2013 @01:46PM (#44196345) Homepage Journal

    is toss one site back to another, so they are tossing ads back and forth, making it look like all the hits are coming from other advertisers. I would suspect eventually the hosting sites will end up blocking themselves, and all will be well in the Twitterverse.

  • Really? The bulk of advertisement revenue for profits is coming from the embedded world, not Web Browsing. More to the point, whether this person likes it or not they don't control the design models of WebKit, Blink, etc. This will not kill advertising.
  • I don't understand why advertisers are so eager to profile users. Really. Now with ABP I don't see many ads, largely because they're usually so obtrusive and irritating, but that's another story.

    The advertiser's key mistake is that they try to target users. The only thing about a user they should target (to make ads useful) is geographic location. E.g. when I'm looking for restaurants, I'd be happy to see advertisements of restaurants near me. I'm looking for restaurants in Mongkok, show me ads of restauran

    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      I don't understand why advertisers are so eager to profile users.

      Well, that's what advertisers used to do, back in the days when it was a regular discussion about how companies can make money by advertising online. When some guys at MS pitched to Steve Ballmer that they should switch to targeted ads instead of content related banner ads he didn't buy it. Then Google came along and targeted the user. Companies started paying Google all of the money they could scrape together because of the noticeably higher ROI when advertising is targeting the user. That resulting in all

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        The Google ads that I click most, and the Google ads of my campaigns that were clicked most (I haven't used ad campaigns for a few years now) are the CONTENT related ones. Just the ads that are placed next to search results, and targeting the search keywords entered by the user (i.e. content) and geographic area (related to the user's current IP address and browser's preferred language). I quite often search for things that are new to me, yet Google gives me the info I need (both in the form of ads and dire

  • by davydagger (2566757) on Friday July 05, 2013 @02:30PM (#44196779)
    well done good sir, This guy reserves the medal of freedom.
  • I just wish (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HalAtWork (926717) on Friday July 05, 2013 @02:58PM (#44197087)
    I just wish there was a plugin that would scramble this stuff automatically. Take each tab and generate a random browser string, garbage "clicked from" info, random cookies to scan, random history, etc. for every link I click.
  • If I have to see ads at all, I'd sooner they be of stuff I may be interested in, to be honest.
    • Me onthe other hand, I don't mind seeing ads that much and if they help the site author I'm willing to endure them. What I don't like is business tracking us down and profiling us and potentially sharing this with government agencies. That's why I use Adblock, Ghostery, Privoxy and other tools. And why I don't bother much with Do-Not-Track me ideas.

  • Oh, please call the software Fakeblock.
  • From the article: "Vortex isn't available publicly or even in a closed beta form..."

    As vapourwear goes, it would seem rather vapid then.

  • I use this free service http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/ [fakenamegenerator.com] to generated an identity. I keep hitting
    generate till I get a zip code that's close and use that info for whatever site.

    An email address to that identity is also available (for a price) but I use www.spamgourmet.com for that.

    Cookies are taken care of with a .bat file.

    And of course a HOSTS file, I use APK to gather all the HOSTS files, combine them then make a HOSTS file from it's output
    http://start64.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article [start64.com]

  • At some point, someone will have session cookie for its job's intranet sent into the mixer...
  • I ended up adding adblock, flashblock and noscript to all of my machines. Blame Club Med. I searched for a vacation online, and for the next two months, got endless ads for Club Med. "hat lady" became a joke in the house Dumped cookies, etc. Now I search vacations or other products on a netbook pre wiped and cookie dumped. I haven't seen a banner ad in weeks. Thank you Club Med...oh, I went there years back, had a great time....but the marketing has turned me off to your brand.

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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