Ghostery: Another Site To Opt Out Of Online Data Gathering
This Won’t Hurt A Bit
…but it’s going to be kind of a hassle, because online marketers don’t want to make it easy for you to stop them gathering data about your online browsing and purchasing habits. So apologies in advance: there will be many screenshots and steps here.
A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The New Statesman
Today I followed a link to The New Statesman, and found an entire sidebar of content was covered up by a pop-up ad for Best Buy. Super annoying, especially since there was no icon or link available to close the ad. There was an “Ad Choices” icon however (see arrow in image below; click or tap on images in this post to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window), and I know these will sometimes lead to an opt out page so I clicked on it.
This opened a small menu, where there was an “Opt Out Options” link, so I clicked on that one too. It took me to this page, for a company called Ghostery—which I think is kind of a creepy name for a company that follows people around online. On this page, there was an option to “Select All” companies to opt out of their data-tracking, as well as a link to “opt out of more companies”.
First I clicked the “Select All” box on this page, then I scrolled to the bottom of the page looking for a button to save my changes. There wasn’t one. All you’ll find at the bottom of the page is a text link that’s not even formatted like virtually ALL online links are, which I suspect is a move intended to prevent at least some consumers from completing the opt out process. But it IS a link, and you have to click it to complete the opt-out for this page.
Getting Back To That Opt Out Of More Companies Link…
Here’s where it gets really annoying, and a little shocking, and kind of infuriating.
When you’re done opting out on the main page, you can scroll back to that “opt out of more companies” link and click it to get to the page shown below, where the very first thing you have to do is opt IN to Ghostery’s own data gathering program!
Okay, it seems reasonable that Ghostery would have to gather your opt-out preferences and share them with the companies you’re opting out of so maybe this is no big deal, but I’ve never seen this kind of disclaimer/opt-in requirement on other ‘opt out of data gathering’ pages/sites I’ve used in the past, so it does tend to raise suspicion. Still, I clicked the X, closing the disclosure and giving my permission.
After doing that, I found the opt-out section was still blocked by a gray overlay, and no clear instruction was given as to what I was supposed to do next: yet another ploy to discourage consumers from opting out, I think. Eventually I figured out I had to click the “Filter” button in the form:
That removed the gray overlay, unlocking the rest of the opt out form, but clicking the ‘Select All’ button did NOT check all the boxes in the form, like a ‘Select All’ button is supposed to. I had to reload the page more than once to get it to work, and can only chalk this up to more obstructionist tactics on Ghostery’s part.
That’s merely annoying at best, a little infuriating at worst, but here’s the shocking part: the number of companies shown here, all of whom have presumably been gathering data on me up till now, is so long that it would’ve taken me too long to count them all, line by line, to offer a total here in this post. What’s also shocking is that I’ve never heard of most of the companies or sites listed.
Ready For More Discouragement?
As I said, reloading the ‘additional companies’ page DID eventually get the Select All checkbox to work, and there IS a large button that’s clearly labeled for the consumer to click to apply the opt-out preferences, but even then there are LOTS of companies in the list where you have to visit yet ANOTHER site to opt out for those specific companies. At a glance I’d estimate a third or more require additional steps. I didn’t bother, and neither will most consumers. And Ghostery knows it.
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