AdNauseam is a free browser extension initiated by Helen Nissenbaum, developed by Daniel C. Howe and designed by Mushon Zer-Aviv. The idea is as simple as it is brilliant, instead of just blocking ads that are disobeying the "do not track" standard, the Chrome extension likes them, all of them, and continues clicking down the rabbit hole of ads and bizarre searches thereby making all data gathering on you useless. Because your real preferences and web habits are now hidden under a layer of bot obfuscation, clicking all the ads silently in the background, while you browse the web totally ad free.
Be very afraid, ad-people. This is the "Fat Man" of ad-blocking. As for this commercial for the extension, I find it quite charming. They've found some nice old public domain footage and the somewhat amateurish sound of the voice-over adds a little punk-zine feel to it all. Which is appropriate. The copy is decent too.
Market research shows nearly 70 million people in the US alone will choose to block ads this year, with a growing number attributing this decision to privacy concerns. Howe says: “While ad blocker adoption continues to grow, surveillance ad networks have doubled-down on their technology, inventing ever more devious ways of ignoring users’ privacy. We built AdNauseam because we are tired of hiding; instead we say, ‘you want our data? Come and get it... and will give you something extra too.’ The response we got for our initial Firefox versions made it clear that ignoring ads is no longer enough; people also want to fight back.”
Zer-Aviv continues: “This motivated us to come up with version 3.0 that not only supports more browsers, but also estimates how much advertising money was potentially spent on your decoy clicks. Just a few days of browsing on a single AdNauseam-enabled browser can quickly amount to hundred of dollars in advertising fees payed to the sites you browse…”
While recent media attention has focused on surveillance by government agencies, the project’s creators see more worrying long-term repercussions from tracking done by corporations. Once personal data has been collected, they argue, it can be aggregated, sold, or stolen, and used for purposes far from the original intent (discrimination, identity theft, persecution, etc.) But Nissenbaum argues that the project is not anti-advertising: “There’s an emerging movement in the online ad industry to use sites that don’t track you. We collaborated with our friends at the Electronic Frontier Foundation to make exceptions for ads on these sites. So in the rare event you see an ad while using AdNauseam, cherish it as it is probably being served by one of the good guys.”
This is not the first collaboration between Howe and Nissenbaum. In 2006 they released TrackMeNot, a browser extension that continuously searches decoy subjects in order to hide your genuine search queries in a cloud of noise. They call this tactic obfuscation and define it as the “communication of misleading, ambiguous, or false data in an effort to evade, distract, or confuse data gatherers...” Inspired by AdNauseam and TrackMeNot, Nissenbaum also co-authored a book with Finn Brunton titled Obfuscation—A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest.
“As long as ad networks keep sabotaging any initiative respectful of data privacy,” Zer-Aviv says, “AdNauseam will keep on pushing their buttons — all of them!”
Animation: USAF Defence Audiovisual Agency
Voice: Emily Goldsher-Diamond
Music: Peter Mor / Epic Score - Revolution