If you notice the ads being served to you are eerily similar to stuff you were just browsing online, it’s not all in your head, and it’s the insidious truth of existing online without installing a bunch of browser extensions. But there’s now a tool that, while comically absurd in execution, can stick it to the man (advertisers) by effectively disguising your true interests. Hope you like tabs.
The tool, called Track THIS, was developed by the Mozilla Firefox folks and lets you pick one of four profiles—Hypebeast, Filthy Rich, Doomsday, or Influencer. You’ll then allow the tool to open 100 tabs based on the associated profile type. Data brokers and advertisers build a profile on you based on how you navigate the internet, which includes the webpages you visit. So whichever one of these personalities you choose will, theoretically, be how advertisers view you, which in turn will influence the type of ads you see.
I tried out both the Filthy Rich and Doomsday Prepper profiles. It took a few minutes for all 100 tabs to open up for each on Chrome. (If you’re on a computer that doesn’t have much RAM, just know that you might have to restart after everything freezes.) For the former, there were a lot of yacht sites, luxury designers, stock market sites, expensive watches, some equestrian real estate brokers, a page to sign up for a Mastercard Gold Card, and a page to book a room at the MGM Grand. For the latter, links to survival supplies and checklists, tents, mylar blankets, doomsday movies, and a lot (a lot) of conspiracy theories. I’m about to get served some ads for some luxury Hazmat suits.
Screenshot: Melanie Ehrenkranz
As Mozilla noted in a blog post announcing the tool, it’ll likely only work as intended for a few days and then will revert back to showing you ads more in tune with your actual preferences. “This will show you ads for products you might not be interested in at all, so it’s really just throwing off brands who want to advertise to a very specific type of person,” the company wrote. “You’ll still be seeing ads. And eventually, if you just use the internet as you typically would day to day, you’ll start seeing ads again that align more closely to your normal browsing habits.”
Of course, you’re probably not going to fire up 100 tabs routinely to trick advertisers—the tool is more of a brilliantly ridiculous nod to the lengths we have to go to only temporarily be just a little less intimately targeted.
Featured image: Mozilla