Can We Unclick Google?

A challenge to activists of the twenty-first century: how can we effectively fight back against Google's violation of our online privacy?

Can We unClick Google?
Can we take back our online privacy? (Picture Source)

In a blog post earlier this week, I proposed an activist solution to Google's announcement that they would expand their tracking of users. In a post entitled unClick Google, I suggested that we undermine Google's business model, and their justification for creating behavioral profiles of the websites we frequent, by using a Firefox plugin to automatically click on all the Google AdSense ads. In so doing, I released a storm of debate over the possibility of forcing Google to adopt a pro-privacy corporate policy.

Google is a massive data warehouse that most internet users share personal information with, knowingly or not, every time they open a web browser. As many readers pointed out, even Adbusters utilizes Google's services on our website. Since 2007 we have relied on Google Analytics to analyze our website traffic. And by doing so we have shared our website statistics with Google.

The primary critique we heard of the idea I put forward was that Google's AdSense system has accomplished a "democratization of advertisers" by bringing many small shop owners into the business of placing online ads. Therefore, our plan to click on ads without viewing them, struck many people as harmful to the very people we want to help -- small, local businesses.

For others, the solution to rampant online advertising and Google tracking lies in a technological, not activist, praxis. They proposed that we use Firefox and install Adblock Plus which removes advertisements or NoScript which block trackers. Others pointed towards the ability to "opt-out" of Google's behavioral profiling by installing a piece of Google software in their browser. Or maybe we should all use alternatives to Google like Scroogle and Clusty.

The most important question that this tussle with Google raises is whether a fight against Google is even possible. Or is Google too big, too intertwined in the fabric of the internet, to be critiqued and forced to bow to our collective protest?

Clearly we are in a new era of activism and there are not any proven tactical answers. But one thing is clear: Google may be the culturejammer's toughest adversary yet.

Weigh in below and let's work together to build a strategy to jam Google and reclaim our online privacy.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters Magazine and an independent activist. He is writing a book on the future of activism.