Nobody likes annoying internet advertisements, that’s for sure. And it’s even creepier when you visit one website, do the web’s equivalent of a little window-shopping, and suddenly find ads for that site plastered over every other site you’re looking at.
In an effort to show just how pervasive advertising tracking can get, Mozilla recently launched a fun little project—”Track This”—that allows you to get a small, temporary advantage on the web’s many trackers. Pull up the website and pick one of four profiles, then click the big yellow “track this” button. Your browser will open up 100 different tabs in an attempt to wrap your real browsing habits around a bunch of made-up content.
In other words, you’ll still see ads (unless you’re blocking them), but what’s being pitched at you should be wildly different from your actual interests and browsing habits. At least, you’ll be able to get a temporary reprieve for a few days—as you go back to your regular browsing, the ads you see online should revert back to more relevant topics.
I tried this out, and I picked this profile before flooding my Firefox browser with tabs:
As it turns out, though, Firefox doesn’t actually let you open 100 tabs like this at once.
Instead, I switched over to Edge and re-ran the Track This profile. All 100 tabs opened without issue, filling my browser full of websites for things I’ll probably never purchase, including:
The results? In just a few minutes of browsing, my advertising already felt more bougie. Before, I enjoyed advertising for places like Target; now, I was being pressed to consider expensive real estate—a rich person’s weekend spending, I suppose.
Before running Track This:
After running Track This:
While I don’t look forward to my advertising going back to boring mass-market retailers instead of gorgeous estates I’ll never be able to afford, all hope isn’t lost. You can always re-run your tracking profile every few days if you want to keep your fake profile alive. You could also probably script up some fancy macro in your browser to automate the process of loading Track This, opening up all the tabs, and closing them all.
That’s a bit of work, though—a lot less efficient than simply blocking annoying web advertising to begin with. Or, if you’d rather support the sites you frequent, but would prefer that your activities not be used to target you with contextual advertising, you can always make sure that you’re using features like Enhanced Tracking Protection (Firefox) or extensions like Cookie AutoDelete (Chrome) to take more control over your browsing experience. You’ll still see ads, but you won’t feel quite as weird about how closely their contents mirror what you’ve been up to lately.