Blackspot

Unclick Google

We can force Google to stop their privacy violations while ridding the internet of advertising ... by clicking ads.
Google is keeping logs of our private lives. (Picture source)

On March 11, Google revealed its latest plan to violate your privacy: they will now record the types of websites you visit in order to gather a behavioral profile of your interests purportedly so that they can send you targeted advertising.

This policy is in addition to their current policy of keeping a record of every single web search you have ever made along with as much other personally identifying information as they can gather. Of course, these behavioral profiles and detailed search histories will also be made available to law enforcement personnel upon request. The disregard for user privacy is a long standing tradition at Google and one that should be challenged. Just as Facebook was recently forced to cave after protests, Google too can be made to backtrack from their creeping violations of our privacy. Every company has their weak point, for Facebook it is the fear that users will stop using the site, and for Google it is the necessity of increasing their advertising revenue. I propose that we collectively embark on a civil disobedience campaign of intentional, automated "click fraud" in order to undermine Google's advertising program with the goal of forcing Google to adopt a pro-privacy corporate policy.

As every internet user knows, the web is inundated with advertising. Many of these ads are generated automatically by Google. Unlike advertisements in newspapers or on billboards which are priced per impression (the more people that see an ad the more expensive it is), Google's ads are priced per click. Therefore, every time you click on a Google AdSense advertisement, some advertiser must pay Google. If the ad you clicked on was displayed on a website other than Google's then Google must also pay that website. As you can see, if ads are being clicked on automatically then the whole house of cards upon which the AdSense system is built on crumbles. Advertisers will refuse to pay Google and Google will refuse to pay websites.

Because Google ads are targeted, certain advertisers are willing to pay top dollar for clicks. Some keywords such as insurance, refinance and "IRS problem" are rumored to be worth more than $10 per click. Click fraud can very quickly do major damage to Google and its advertisers but the fact is there is nothing Google can do to stop it, if we work together.

The system I propose is quite simple and is accomplished in three steps:

  1. Install Firefox and restart Firefox
  2. Install GreaseMonkey (a useful plug-in for Firefox)
  3. Install the Blackspot Google GreaseMonkey script or if you are on a slow network install the Blackspot Google Randomly script which will only click on one ad randomly.

Now, whenever you use Google your computer will automatically click on all the AdSense advertisements sending a message to Google to stop their privacy violations.

Note: If you are a techie and want to get involved with this campaign, we need a version of this script that will both remove the ads from our sight and click them automatically. The best would be integration of this script into Adblock Plus. Unfortunately, this script does not work with Adblock Plus so if you want to use Adblock Plus (you should!) then you must disable it on google.com in order to automatically click their ads. If you are a programmer, post your upgraded version of this script below. (Update: One person has already posted an updated version, but I haven't tested it yet.)

Special thanks to Alf at Hublog for designing the prototype of this script four years ago which I upgraded to work today.

The debate is raging! Read the March 13 follow-up to this post for further discussion of Unclick Google

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters Magazine and an independent activist. He can be reached at www.micahmwhite.com or micah[at]adbusters.org

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240 comments on the article “Unclick Google”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 240

Page 3 of 24

Colin

I'm an google adsense customer and I have to say this doesn't worry me at all. This campaign may even make me some extra money. Thanks.

Colin

I'm an google adsense customer and I have to say this doesn't worry me at all. This campaign may even make me some extra money. Thanks.

Anonymous

I love that you guys are using Google Analytics on your site, to freely track people who come here, paid for by the ads you hate.

Anonymous

I love that you guys are using Google Analytics on your site, to freely track people who come here, paid for by the ads you hate.

Anonymous

The only way for this to have *any* effect is if you have a large enough critical mass of people who care about their personal privacy. But you don't. As a strong privacy advocate who has worked in the field for over a decade, I'm sad to report that people just don't care, and the younger Facebook generation doesn't have ANY expectation of privacy. I've heard so many "I'm not doing anything wrong so why do I care if Google is spying on me?" comments when I try to explain to people why they should care that the database Google+DoubleClick has and continues to create invades their privacy. Those who try to retain their privacy and hold Google to their "do no evil" BS that they fed us at the beginning just brands us as paranoid freaks with something to hide, and as a result my arguments fall on deaf ears except for a small group of privacy freaks (who are probably the ONLY ones reading this comment...) Sadly, yours will, too. What you need to do is start widly publishing actual privacy violations and their consequences (e.g. woman in UK who had her house broken into when the cops were looking for drugs because she had bought way too many ziplocs to be "normal" as part of her soccer mom duties...) Until people understand WHY they should care about privacy, they won't do anything to insure they get it. This will, however, bring lots of additional revenue to Google!

Anonymous

The only way for this to have *any* effect is if you have a large enough critical mass of people who care about their personal privacy. But you don't. As a strong privacy advocate who has worked in the field for over a decade, I'm sad to report that people just don't care, and the younger Facebook generation doesn't have ANY expectation of privacy. I've heard so many "I'm not doing anything wrong so why do I care if Google is spying on me?" comments when I try to explain to people why they should care that the database Google+DoubleClick has and continues to create invades their privacy. Those who try to retain their privacy and hold Google to their "do no evil" BS that they fed us at the beginning just brands us as paranoid freaks with something to hide, and as a result my arguments fall on deaf ears except for a small group of privacy freaks (who are probably the ONLY ones reading this comment...) Sadly, yours will, too. What you need to do is start widly publishing actual privacy violations and their consequences (e.g. woman in UK who had her house broken into when the cops were looking for drugs because she had bought way too many ziplocs to be "normal" as part of her soccer mom duties...) Until people understand WHY they should care about privacy, they won't do anything to insure they get it. This will, however, bring lots of additional revenue to Google!

Anonymous

"The internet worked just fine for years before they came along." Do you remember what search engines were like before Google? They were atrocious. The pages were utterly drenched in images and junk, back when most people had 56k modems. Sites were so bad at returning relevant results that other sites popped up that performed searches on dozens of them at a time in the hope that one of them would return a relevant result. (Usually none of them did.) We take it for granted nowadays, but when it was new, Google *wasted* all of them, and it was *awesome*. Maybe some of them have improved over the years, I don't know, because every time I consider an alternative to Google, I shuudder when I remember what it was like trying to find something on the Internet in the '90s.

Anonymous

"The internet worked just fine for years before they came along." Do you remember what search engines were like before Google? They were atrocious. The pages were utterly drenched in images and junk, back when most people had 56k modems. Sites were so bad at returning relevant results that other sites popped up that performed searches on dozens of them at a time in the hope that one of them would return a relevant result. (Usually none of them did.) We take it for granted nowadays, but when it was new, Google *wasted* all of them, and it was *awesome*. Maybe some of them have improved over the years, I don't know, because every time I consider an alternative to Google, I shuudder when I remember what it was like trying to find something on the Internet in the '90s.

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