AdBlock, NoScript & Ghostery – The Trifecta Of Evil

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posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 07:18 AM
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Source: MakeUseOf
Author: James Bruce
Published: March 4, 2012

AdBlock, NoScript & Ghostery – The Trifecta Of Evil [Opinion]
 

Here's an interesting article which I thought would stir up a good debate between some of the website owners around here. Yes I do use all 3 of these "evil" browser add-ons, and personally I don't agree with one single part of this article, so let me explain why.


AdBlock

For those of you who don’t know, AdBlock silently removes all advertising and social buttons. The thing is – those ads pay my salary, as well as the other full time editors, professionals writers, and dedicated server costs that make MakeUseOf what it is. We believe strongly in a free content model – whereby we provide free, high quality, full content to you with no restrictions – in exchange for showing you advertising.
I see it like this: once the server at MakeUsOf transmits the HTML code to my browser, I can do what ever I want to that code. If I want to modify that code so it is displayed differently in my web browser, who are you to tell me I can't do that? Now, I can also use automated programs to modify the HTML code too, like the AdBlock add-on. At the end of the day I don't want to click any of your damn adverts anyway, so you can simply get over it if I choose not to see them by altering the code once it has been sent to me. You think that if you can just get the chance to make me look at them I'm going to change my mind and click some of them don't you? Wrong... and even if that's true for some people, it doesn't change the fact that the end user shouldn't have to be harassed by websites who have the audacity to issue orders concerning what they can and cannot do concerning the way their web browser displays the HTML code.


What makes me angry about the AdBlock plugin is that the author – while happy to destroy our revenue stream – is also profiteering from the very same free content model by asking for PayPal donations when the plugin is installed. Talk about hypocrisy.
Actually MakeUseOf could easily ask for donations and they probably do already. So that argument is completely invalid. If people actually think your content is worth something they will donate to you, and many businesses have experienced success with a simple donation business model in the past. It could also be argued ad blockers are similar to a donation tool... if your content sucks and your website is plastered with eye straining adverts I'm going to block them. On the other hand if you have great content and a reasonable amount of ads I may decide to unblock ads on your website and even click on them to help you keep creating more great content. But if you try and force me to look at your ads I am just going to leave and never look at any of your ads.


Ultimately you need to remember that if everyone cheated the system like AdBlock users do, the Internet would only exist behind paywalls.
False. The internet would thrive on user-generated content, more than it already does. Even ATS relies on peer generated content... now the admin here may claim the servers don't pay for themselves and therefore advertising is needed, but the fact is ATS has a lot more advertising than it really needs to pay for the costs of hosting this website. This website profits off the content we submit, which would be fine, if there was no rule forcing us to disable Ad Blockers on this website (there is such a rule). And lets just say everyone started using an AdBlocker which forced all websites to put their content behind 'paywalls'. What we would see then is an explosion of user-generated content hosted on peer-to-peer networks which don't cost anyone a dime. Furthermore, it's not like advertising is the only way to make money. As already noted, there is donations, online shops which sell physical merchandise, and clever promotional campaigns such as those used by Facebook in order to maintain a nice clean looking website without the unpleasant jumble of adverts suffocating the pages.


NoScript

In days gone by, Javascript was the bane of the Internet, along with flashing GIF’s. Blocking Javascript used to make sense from both a safety standpoint (most browser vulnerabilities came through Javascript), and a usability perspective (Javascript was initially only used for silly effects and annoying tricks and popups).

But the Internet has very much moved on and evolved from those early days. Browsers aren’t as vulnerable as they used to be. Moreover, Javascript is an integral component of modern HTML5 standards, and jQuery – the most popular Javascript framework – has pushed forward web interfaces far, far beyond pages full of images, links and tables. The modern Internet must have Javascript.
Incorrect. A large number of viruses and trojans are still effective because of their ability to compromise browser security by implementing malicious JavaScript. Remember that recent news about up to 2 billion Euro stolen from 60+ Banks, the report released by McAfee revealed that the victims were first infected via JavaScript exploits, which proceeded to download and install malicious trojan viruses onto their computers. Security is just as important as privacy, because a security breach could dismantle your privacy in a matter of minutes once an attacker gains access to your system. I simply cannot trust the large range of 3rd party tracking companies and advertising companies to only transmit safe scripts to my browser, because there have been numerous cases even on ATS where people have reported an external source trying to compromise their browser security, such as this extremely worrying report by Trillium.


So when you use NoScript, you’re breaking the Internet. Not only do you drag webpages 10 years into the past, but you prevent essential modern page components from loading
False again. NoScript can selectively deactivate JavaScript which comes from external domains. For instance, I can white-list makeuseof.com, which will activate JavaScript located on the MakUseOf domain, however it will block out any JavaScript which comes from any external 3rd party source; for instance, MakeUseOf loads content from nearly 15 different domains, including Twitter, Facebook and Google, and also a range of tracking companies which are trying to activate external JavaScript code inside my browser. Disabling the code from all those external sources usually does nothing to hinder the "modern page components" of the website I am browsing, what it does is stop me from being tracked, stop me from seeing adverts injected into my page from external sources, and stop my browser from being possibly compromised by external sources which I would otherwise be completely oblivious to were it not for add-ons which allow me to see what is happening behind the scenes.

And lastly we have Ghostery, the "ultimate do-not-track plugin". As the article explains, this add-on will tell you exactly what companies, ad networks, and tracking services are being downloaded from a site, and allow you to selectively disable/enable them. It works much in the same way as NoScript but it's highly effective at stopping all forms of trackers, including image trackers and other forms of tricky bugs which NoScript doesn't block (NoScript only stops scripts remember).


So how much can these companies actually “track” your web usage? Well for one, they certainly aren’t able to see what you’re doing in other tabs, other windows, or general Internet searching. They only keep a record of sites in their network which you’ve browsed to. If company X puts a cookie on the New York Times and MSNBC site, and you browse to both those and Wikipedia, it only knows about the two upon on which it was placed. In other words, they can’t tell that your other tab is open on Asian Hotties or cheatonmywife.com.
Incorrect yet again. They may not be able to share cookies, but they don't need to, because that's not how they track you, they track your IP and browser user-agent string among other things, meaning they can track your activity on any website which contains their trackers, and furthermore they often share or sell that information to other companies for a profit. In fact there is a brilliant Firefox add-on called Collusion which shows, in real time, how that tracker data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers. However, it should be noted that Collusion obviously wont show you anything if you have "The Trifecta Of Evil" installed, since those 3 add-ons stop you from being tracked in the first place.
edit on 13/7/2012 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)




posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 07:32 AM
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Agree with you 100% not really much more I can say about it other than that.

I use all the same things as you and I love not having to see all the BS advertising shoved down my throat!

It's one of the reasons I don't watch TV. Though it is pretty low down the list.

Edit: I do not use ghostery btw and it is because of this...




Evidon is a new type of company that brings trust to online advertising by working as an intermediary between consumers, advertisers, industry self-regulatory programs, and government.


What do you think this means? Intermediary? Government? Hmmmmm Alarm bells are ringing for me.
edit on 13-7-2012 by mee30 because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 07:47 AM
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I see it like this: once the server at MakeUsOf transmits the HTML code to my browser, I can do what ever I want to that code. If I want to modify that code so it is displayed differently in my web browser, who are you to tell me I can't do that?

I wish more people understood this particular concept. This is an argument advertisers know the public is ignorant of. And they don't expect anyone to use it. Well done.

Every advertiser wants theirs to stand out among the rest, and the escalation of that has spawned the ads we all love to hate. Ads that flicker and flash enough to cause some folks seizures. Ads that pop up in your face, and scare the crap out of you when the volume peaks. Ads you have to study to find the frackin X. Gee, I wonder why people want to block them?

If advertisers would keep their ads low key, and not slow web pages to a crawl at times, maybe people wouldn't mind them so much. I'm not even going to touch on the tracking aspects, it just really pisses me off to think about it.

Well done Chaotic. S&F.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 07:50 AM
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I agree as well, and I also don't use Ghostery, but it's because it makes Firefox run like molasses. HUGE resource hog. It makes browsing nigh impossible.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 07:59 AM
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The percentage of people who use adblock isn't high enough to be a concern at this point. And when it does become an issue, I'm sure content providers will find another way to pay for the cost of running the site. It kinda like prosecuting people for downloading music. Rather than resisting the changes, evolve with it.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:00 AM
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reply to post by mee30
 



What do you think this means? Intermediary? Government? Hmmmmm Alarm bells are ringing for me.
Yes, that is certainly very suspicious... but for me it's not just the fact that I don't like being tracked, it's also the security factor. Security is just as important as privacy, because a security breach could dismantle your privacy in a matter of minutes once an attacker gains access to your system. I simply cannot trust the large range of 3rd party tracking companies and advertising companies to only transmit safe scripts to my browser, because there have been numerous cases even on ATS where people have reported an external source trying to compromise their browser security, such as this extremely worrying report by Trillium (added this to the OP because it's important, thanks for reminding me).


reply to post by Klassified
 



Ads that flicker and flash enough to cause some folks seizures. Ads that pop up in your face, and scare the crap out of you when the volume peaks. Ads you have to study to find the frackin X. Gee, I wonder why people want to block them?
Exactly, it's just way over the top these days. One time I attempted to browse the internet using the basic unmodified version of Internet Explorer and I almost suffered a heart attack... I could hardly believe the sheer number and excess of the advertisements I was faced to bear witness to. It was simply outstanding and mind-blowing... I don't even know how people can handle browsing the internet without any sort of ad blocker. It's just a ridiculous mess of unintelligible nonsense, the real, so called free content, is completely drowned out. All my websites have little to no advertising, and if I have to pay some money out of my pocket to deal with the hosting costs, so be it. But as I said, there are many ways other than ads to draw in a profit. Thanks for the S&F too.
edit on 13/7/2012 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:01 AM
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Originally posted by DaTroof
I agree as well, and I also don't use Ghostery, but it's because it makes Firefox run like molasses. HUGE resource hog. It makes browsing nigh impossible.
Hmmm, I haven't noticed that. Seems to work fine for me. May be because you're on a really old computer or something. Not sure but it doesn't seem to cause me any problems.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:10 AM
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reply to post by ChaoticOrder
 


okay so you are trading off possible privacy breach for a supposed security benefit? How do you know their security measures really work? Couldn't something else come out that gets round it? Also doesn't no script block anything unwanted?

Better privacy deletes unwanted cookies which is pretty good too.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:20 AM
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reply to post by mee30
 



okay so you are trading off possible privacy breach for a supposed security benefit?
No I didn't say that. I am gaining both security and privacy by using The Trifecta Of Evil. I stop them tracking me (privacy) and I stop possibly malicious content from being loaded from external sources.


How do you know their security measures really work? Couldn't something else come out that gets round it?
Doubtful. NoScript blocks all dynamic content (yes it blocks more than just JavaScript), such as Flash Silverlight, and other embedded plugins. Once all those dynamic components are blocked the only thing left is static HTML, and it's very unlikely any HTML code is going to be capable of compromising your web browser.


Better privacy deletes unwanted cookies which is pretty good too.
Yes I have better privacy too. It's great actually, because it allows me to delete unwanted LSO's (Flash cookies) which are typically very hard to delete and often used as an alternative to normal cookie tracking. You might say I have "The Quadfecta Of Evil".
edit on 13/7/2012 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:29 AM
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reply to post by ChaoticOrder
 


No I don't think it works like that though. I will say I am far from an expert on this kind of thing and you sound more up on it than me BUT just thinking logically about this... If ghostery scans the page you are viewing so that it can tell you what is going on, obviously that data is being relayed to their servers to be analyzed, which is of course what courses the delays for some people.

Am I right so far?

Assuming that I am, they have access to EVERY single thing you search and visit! They do not need to track you, just having the program installed is the tracker! What is to stop them making a profile about everything you do online? Then sell that on to government agencies as an "intermediary".


I would seriously reconsider using it to be honest. Though of course you probably do know better than I.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:34 AM
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reply to post by mee30
 



No I don't think it works like that though. I will say I am far from an expert on this kind of thing and you sound more up on it than me BUT just thinking logically about this... If ghostery scans the page you are viewing so that it can tell you what is going on, obviously that data is being relayed to their servers to be analyzed, which is of course what courses the delays for some people.

Am I right so far?
No, you're not right so far. Ghostery looks at the page source and checks for external content which is loaded from tracking companies, tracking scripts and other types of tracking bugs. It does all this without relaying any information anywhere because it has access to a local list of tracking domains. It searches the page for any data links to those domains and then stops the browser from requesting content from those external sources. Therefore it can tell you everything about the trackers on any given page and even block those trackers from loading without needing access to any other server. NoScript also works in essentially the same way, except it doesn't search for specific links, it just blocks all external sources and only allows what you tell it to allow, and it also gives you the ability to block dynamic content on the main domain too.
edit on 13/7/2012 by ChaoticOrder because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:35 AM
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Great thread!.
A lot of us regard the inanities of advertising as little more than pollution, people should necessarily have the right to protect themselves from the stupefyingly consistent trash, that marketing companies manage to sell.
Boring, intrusive, uninteresting,invasive, un-inmaginative (at it's worst) low brow junk (at it's best), to sell this tripe as "Advertising", and expect the general public to like it enough to want to watch it, and, to complain that inflicting this horrendous repetitive crap is necessary for someone to earn money, says to me. Do humanity a favour, and find another job, i would rather pull my own eyes out than watch any kind of TV and be assaulted by your mundane repetitive over the top attempts to get me to part with my money.
The internet i love because i don't have to put up with this crap, if i don't want to, and, I don't want to.
Doesn't that go to the heart of advertising and imply not seeing it is as much a personal preference, a choice, that marketers are always so eager to continually tell us we have?.
or, is it, because my choice isn't about choosing which product i want, it doesn't count?.
(And if the advertiser was here talking to me i would say, Please, GTFO)



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:40 AM
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reply to post by ChaoticOrder
 


Okay, fair enough, though I wonder why there is a delay for ghostery and not for no-script.. I'll have to do a little more digging on the ghostery page but from what I read they do more than just look for trackers... I use do not track plus for that any way...

Personally I'm gonna steer well clear of ghostery just to be sure



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:46 AM
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reply to post by mee30
 


All add-on code is verified by the Mozilla team and if you're really worried about what it is doing then use a program such as WireShark to monitor your network traffic and check what it is doing. You'll find it isn't doing anything.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:49 AM
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reply to post by The X
 


Great post, I completely agree and I feel your pain. Advertisers these days simply have no honor left. They are like cheap whores trying to seduce idiots, it's just sickening.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 08:49 AM
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If your pay relied on advertisements, then get a real job.

I didn't start using search engines, or visiting web pages to suppliment someone elses income. This all came about after the fact. So screw you jimmy.

Sell me a product or make something I am interested in.

I wont be a machine to mine your loot. FOAD.

simple.. and they have the gall to cry about it? oh wo is me, i cant make money for free.. gee..
edit on 13-7-2012 by mainidh because: (no reason given)



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 10:05 AM
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Please excuse my lack of knowledge in regards to web based technology. What I don't understand is how does anyone know if you have the Ad block or other aforementioned plug-in /technology enabled and in use? It's my understanding that those plug-ins just alter how your computer reads the code and displays the content of the site.

Also I personally find it quite interesting how all this income basically comes from nothing. I understand that companies pay for the ads with the expectation it will yield them higher sales but the mass majority of ads I just don't see the value in them. I don't believe that advertising is effective with the exception of brand awareness. Brand awareness only comes after months to years of expensive ad campaigns.

In regards to internet ads, I just ignore them and I believe most people do the same. It’s quite easy to mute the ads embedded in videos and alt-tab or do something else while they play. There is a stigma with online ads that they sometimes lead to malicious content so I know a lot of people avoid them because of that.

To be honest I just don't think the advertisers and ad companies really get it, we don't want or need their ads. There is a big stink right now about Dish Network and the auto hop feature. What the networks don't get is most people don't watch ads anyway. The fact they are trying to shove them down our throat just pisses people off. People go to the bathroom, grab a sandwich, make a phone call and or browse the web from their tablet or laptop during commercials. I don't watch TV much and when I do I watch shows online or download them from authorized content providers.

Sorry to get a bit off topic here but I think the discussion of why advertising is relevant provides value to the thread.
edit on 13-7-2012 by AssiduousSpook because: grammar



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 11:52 AM
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reply to post by ChaoticOrder
 


Just to corroborate your views - I am using noscript with firefox right this moment. Essentially disabling all _javascript. I am able to log in to ATS and make this post after reading your thread.

As for advertising, I agree with you as well. If I dont want to see an ad, I wont. There is no law stating I have to watch them, despite some individuals attempting to pass laws making it illegal to skip commercials and such (there is a thread on this on ATS somewhere). Even if there was, will they make it a law for me to be able to see and/or hear the advertisement too?



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 01:13 PM
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Originally posted by Klassified
If advertisers would keep their ads low key, and not slow web pages to a crawl at times, maybe people wouldn't mind them so much. I'm not even going to touch on the tracking aspects, it just really pisses me off to think about it.


Exactly, of course, they would say that defeats the purpose of the ad. The tax loophole cheater google was ahead of its time to use text ads. I don't mind those so much at all, if the text size is right, but I also know google doesn't need any extra money.

They are trying to get the internet to be like TV. The point of TV is not the programs (funny, "programs); it's the ads! Well for WE surfers, the purpose of the internet is the content, not any stinking consumer-driven ad experience.

I'd like to take every executive in advertising and put them through a few days of "ad torture" similar to what they did in Clockwork Orange (I believe it was). Hold their eyes open, have someone paid (minimum wage) to put drops in their eyes, and force them to look at nothing but ads for 72 hours straight. That ought to show them how much a f'in nuisance they are.

Already there are ads we can't help, unless you are lucky enough to live in a gated community. So called "special internet papers" that are really just one long damn advertisement are thrown into our yard for us to pick up where I live. If I go throwing about crap around town, like that, let's say, the ones from last week, I would get ticketed for littering. We don't get the option to opt out. That's businesses for you! Thinking they own everything! (They pretty much do, actually.)

There are some new developments in the fight against ads though. Literally a pair of glasses are being tested right now for real-time ad-blocking glasses! They work against billboards and other known ads. The glasses work by recognizing known ads, and I think maybe just by the general shape of certain signs. The only thing is that you can't wear them while driving, yet. I can't remember what these are called, but I saw they were in beta testing and looking for volunteers. Unfortunately, I don't do much walking in the city, so I was not a good candidate. More like those in NYC and L.A. (poor people).

If I had one "sub-mission" in life, it would be to ban all advertising. Mind pollution is what I call it.

If I were rich, I would combat it by placing "naughty" or otherwise controversial ads near big name churches or schools until they wished all advertising were banned. ha ha.



posted on Jul, 13 2012 @ 02:17 PM
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Originally posted by DaTroof
I agree as well, and I also don't use Ghostery, but it's because it makes Firefox run like molasses. HUGE resource hog. It makes browsing nigh impossible.

Not true. Where did you get that? I have ran Ghostery for several years now without a single problem. Type "about:config" in the url bar without the quote tags. Set the following:

network.http.pipelining false to true
network.http.pipelining.maxrequests 30 to 8
network.http.max-connections 30 to 48
network.http.max-connections-per-server 15 to 32
network.http.max-persistent-connections-per-server 6 to 8
network.http.pipelining.ssl false to true
network.http.proxy.pipelining false to true
network.prefetch true to false

Your Firefox will run a lot faster.





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