~100 Words #9: User Side Ad Tech 3

For a few weeks now I have had a pretty-much-developed project sitting on my computer waiting to be released. The guts of it were much more interesting to me than the aesthetics, so while it looks too ugly to share with the world, it at least works and is very cool (if I do say so myself). Following from my general interest in the irony that is users holding a weird amount of “write” power in the seemingly one-sided and panoptic world of adtech products, “Fuck Off My Data” is a Chrome Extension that gives users who install it the ability to talk to the people that are scraping the data of their visits by automatically replacing the values of UTMs and other URL parameters in links they click on with a custom message of their choice.

Why build this? Because these parameters — especially UTMs — are built to help websites blindly receive fairly custom strings and shove them into analytics platforms for a human to parse. That is, a value for utm_campaign is just a campaign name, and any advertiser can name any of their campaigns anything. The only thing that matters for the advertiser is that all links in that campaign have the same campaign name, so that on their analytics dashboard they can group all the sessions that came through that campaign into some aggregate data set. To the dashboard itself, the campaign name doesn’t matter, it’s just some string a human put together and it will just display every utm_campaign value it received. So, thanks to the fact that (a) the analytics dashboard will show any UTM it gets, that (b) marketers have a real need to look at these dashboards regularly, that (c) UTM parameters can be literally anything, and that (d) marketers don’t expect users to actually modify the UTMs in links they click on, “Fuck Off My Data” is able to exploit the supposed docility of users to troll advertisers with anti-surveillance messages where they can’t be ignored.

DM me on Twitter for a link to download, I still need beta testers.

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