Posted at Adbusters, 12 March 2009
Author: Micah White
Keywords also in Wikipedia: Google, Privacy, Activism, Google Watch, Uberveillance
Keywords at Adbusters: privacy, Google, disobedience, click, activism
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 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.
Special thanks to Alf at Hublog for designing the prototype of this script four years ago which I upgraded to work today.
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