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## Trackers to the left of me, surveillance to the right…
This week we discover that love of tracking and profiling people unites the conversative and progressive media like nothing else.
**Alternet and The Drudge Report are so similar that they may as well be the same company.**
Progressive news site Alternet comes in 11th with 74 trackers on the [Alexa Top 500 News sites list](/sites/alexa-top-500-news), ordered by number of trackers.
Progressive news site Alternet comes in 11th with 74 trackers on the [Alexa Top 500 News sites list as ordered by number of trackers](/sites/alexa-top-500-news).
Conservative news site [The Drudge Report](/sites/drudgereport.com) scores only slightly better in 12th position with 71 trackers.
One’s the darling of the left, the other a beloved cornerstone of the right. And yet they’re both in the same business: behavioural advertising. The bait they use to entice you is different but the goal is the same: [to farm you](https://ar.al/notes/the-nature-of-the-self-in-the-digital-age/).
One’s the darling of the left, the other a beloved mouthpiece of the right. And yet they’re both in the exact same business: behavioural advertising. The bait they use to entice you to their sites is different but the goal is the same: to expose you to be [tracked, profiled, and manipulated](https://ar.al/notes/the-nature-of-the-self-in-the-digital-age/) by the 70+ third-party entities on their sites.
At least The Drudge Report doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. Alternet is actually worse as it touts itself as a non-profit that defends progressive values and so people are more likely to trust it and less likely to think that they are being tracked. Needless to say, Alternet, [people farming](https://ar.al/notes/the-nature-of-the-self-in-the-digital-age/) and social justice are not compatible.
## Ethical design violations
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![Screenshot of Drudge Report’s web site](drudgereport.jpg)
> “The Drudge Report is a politically conservative[4][5][dead link][6][7][8] American news aggregation website.” – [Source](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drudge_Report)
> “The Drudge Report is a politically conservative American news aggregation website.” – [Source](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drudge_Report)
## Trackers to the left of me, surveillance to the right…
**Alternet and The Drudge Report are so similar that they may as well be the same company.**
[Read the whole story on our Alternet entry](/sites/alternet.org)
## Ethical design violations
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<blockquote style='font-size: 1.5em; text-align:left;'>“Every year, one human life worth of time – over 87 years – is lost to one ‘annoying’ doorslam on one site.”</blockquote>
When you, as a human being, visit Forbes.com, you get [a doorslam](http://www.creativebloq.com/mobile/web-needs-fewer-doorslams-and-more-personality-5135640). In ad-industry parlance, this is an ‘interstitial’ – a modal screen that blocks your progress and displays an advertisement. In this case, Forbes attempts to disguise the intent by including a random quote from some sage person. And, to rub salt on the wound, the page has a three-second count down before it allows you to press a button to continue to the site itself.
When you, as a human being, visit Forbes.com, you get [a doorslam](http://www.creativebloq.com/mobile/web-needs-fewer-doorslams-and-more-personality-5135640). In ad-industry parlance, this is an ‘interstitial’ – a modal screen that blocks your progress and displays an advertisement. To rub salt on the wound, Forbes added a three-second count down to theirs. Only after the countdown is complete does a button appear that you can press to proceed to the site itself.
Let’s be conservative here and say that the whole malarkey takes about five seconds for you to get through if you have lightning fast reflexes. That’s not that bad, is it? And, once you’ve been subjected to it, you are not subjected to it again for that session. (But you will be if you return the next day, as Forbes sets a ‘dailyWelcomeCookie’ that expires at the end of the day.)
Let’s be conservative here and say that the whole malarkey takes about five seconds for you to get through if you have lightning fast reflexes. That’s not that bad, is it? And, once you’ve been subjected to it, you don’t see it again until the next day.
### What’s 5 seconds anyway?
So what’s the big deal? 5 seconds isn’t that bad, is it? Why is Forbes this month’s Cloud of Shame?
Here’s why: by Forbe’s own admission, Forbes gets 46 million unique visitors to their site every month.
Here’s why: by their own admission, Forbes gets 46 million unique visitors to their site every month.
![Forbes’s visitor statistics](stats.jpg)
Let’s, again, be hugely conservative here and say that each one of those visitors only visits the site once and thus gets exposed to the 5-second delay just once:
Let’s be hugely conservative again and say that each one of those visitors only visits the site once and thus gets exposed to the 5-second delay only once a month. Even so, those five seconds add up to mean that humankind cumulatively loses over 7 years of human life every month because of that one interstitial on Forbes.
In other words, **every year, one human life worth of time – over 87 years – is lost to one ‘annoying’ doorslam on one site.**
<div style='padding: 24px; padding-bottom: 12px; border-radius: 12px; background-color: #f3f3f3; margin-top: 24px; margin-bottom: 24px;'>
<p style='border-bottom: 1px solid lightgrey;'>46,000,000 people × 5 seconds = 230,000,000 seconds</p>
......@@ -28,25 +32,33 @@ Let’s, again, be hugely conservative here and say that each one of those visit
<p>2,662 days ÷ 365 days = <span style='font-weight: bold; border-bottom: 3px double #ababab;'>7.3 years</span></p>
</div>
So very conservatively, every month, humankind cumulatively loses over 7 years of life because Forbes decided to show you a doorslam with an ad in it.
We must start talking about the externalities of the behavioural advertising industry. And we must start regulating them. One of those externalities is human time wasted. The unit is lifetimes lost per year.
In other words, **every year, one human life worth of time – over 87 years – is lost to one ‘annoying’ doorslam on one site.**
But don’t worry, because everything we’ve just said only applies to you if you’re a human being. If you’re a robot, things are much better.
This is just one of the externalities of the behavioural advertising industry that we must start calculating: *lifetimes lost per year*.
### VIP lane: robots only
![What Google sees](what-google-sees.jpg)
If you want to regain your 5 seconds, all you have to do is to pretend that you’re a robot. To skip the doorslam, the easiest thing you can do is to set your browser’s user agent to the user agent used by the Googlebot:
<p><code>Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)</code></p>
> Screenshot: the Googlebot gets shown directly to the content. The doorslam is purely for human beings.
And, boom – right this way, sir – you get shown directly to the content. No doorslam, no ad, no pithy quote, no three-second countdown.
I started this article with “when you, as a human being” for a very specific reason. Because if you want to regain your 5 seconds, all you have to do is to pretend that you’re a robot. To skip the doorslam, the easiest thing you can do is to set your browser’s user agent to the user agent used by the Googlebot:
![What Google sees](what-google-sees.jpg)
<p><code>Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)</code></p>
> What Google sees: the Googlebot gets shown directly to the content. The doorslam is purely for human beings.
Because Forbes is only interested in stealing time from living, breathing human beings. If you’re Google, you get shown directly to the content.
And if you think all this is bad, it’s actually not as bad as it was before.
Forbes used to detect tracker blockers like Better and block you from proceeding past their doorslam unless you turned them off.
![Forbes’s blocker blocker which resulted in people getting infected with malware](blocker-blocker.jpg)
And things were even worse before: Forbes used to detect tracker blockers like Better and block you from proceeding unless you turned them off. And what happened when people complied and stopped protecting themselves on the web? [They got served malware](http://www.extremetech.com/internet/220696-forbes-forces-readers-to-turn-off-ad-blockers-promptly-serves-malware) is what. While Forbes appears to have stopped this practice, [Wired](/sites/wired.com) hasn’t (note: Better blocks their blocker blocker). And where do these publishers get the idea? From no other than the trade association for the behavioural advertising industry. Forcing people to turn off their tracker blockers and stop protecting themselves on the web is part of the [standard policy called DEAL](/sites/iab.com) that the [Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)](/sites/iab.com) recommends publishers implement.
So people started turning off their tracker and ad blockers and stopped protecting themselves. And what happened? [They got served malware](http://www.extremetech.com/internet/220696-forbes-forces-readers-to-turn-off-ad-blockers-promptly-serves-malware).
While Forbes no longer appears to be blocking content blockers, [Wired](/sites/wired.com) still does. (Note: [Better blocks Wired’s blocker blocker]((/sites/wired.com)).
Is it a coincidence that both Forbes and Wired take a similar approach to tracker blockers? No. The companies behind both publications are members of the [Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB)](/sites/iab.com), the trade association for the behavioural advertising industry. Forcing people to turn off their tracker blockers and stop protecting themselves on the web is part of [the standard policy called DEAL](/sites/iab.com) that the IAB recommends publishers to implement.
Shame on you, Forbes, for failing to respect human rights, human effort, and human experience. You fail [the ethical design test](https://ind.ie/ethical-design) on all counts and that makes you our Cloud of Shame for this month.
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