August 10, 2018

Tracking users with AdBlockers (bypassing the wall)

Every online marketer, especially those specialized for tech-savvy audiences is probably aware about the use of Ad Blockers and how they prevent us not just from showing ads, but also from tracking information using tools such as Mixpanel, Google Analytics, etc.

According to some sources, the percentage of users with Ad Blockers should be around 20%, and on some tech-savvy websites even more.

Do you, as an online marketer concern with this fact and if so, what are you doing to collect the data from the users that are using Ad Blockers?

I am asking because I would be curious if its only us who see the problem. We developed a tool that enables us to bypass all Ad Blockers effectively (and makes it also possible to ask for user consent), and would be curious if anyone would be willing to pay for such solution.

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    I use an ad blocker partly because I don't wish to be tracked so intrusively, and I'd stop using any service that tries to 'bypass' that.

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      I think there are 2 sides of this concern -- one is companies using the data to manipulate the users, and the other side is companies using the data to improve the user experience, and to give you better suggestions and recommendations within the apps.

      To my knowledge, most of the people (including me) use Ad Blockers because they don't want to be seeing ads. I don't mind being tracked for other purposes, especially knowing that there is not really a "blocker" that could prevent that - most of the smart products use backend tracking anyway, which cannot be blocked.

      Instead of that I think its smarter to use "stealth" identities -- only this way you can be 100% safe that tracked actions cannot be associated with you.

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        This is rationalisation of an already made decision.

        You know what you're doing is unethical, this is why you posted here looking for reassurance.

        Your intent is to track users, against their own personal wish, ultimately for profit. There are many ways to improve a service without tracking: seeking feedback, surveys, feature bots etc... You're just attempting to rationalise a questionable activity.

        Ultimately you have to ask yourself what are you prepared to do for money. Unfortunately, profit has a powerful pull, and once you bend boundaries of decencey, its a long and dark fall into the abyss. At first you don't know whats happening, till you become somebody new. (I understand the TV show Breaking Bad is a dramatisation of this kind of descent )

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    I'm going to come at this from a different angle just to be the devil's advocate, there's a new question that comes from people blocking tracking and that's a matter of ethics, they just don't want to be tracked and their privacy gives them a right to that, how would you get around this?

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    People would absolutely want to pay for that. The problem is that the ad blockers will just get smarter.

    There is one way to get it to work - do the tracking on the server side rather than the client side. No amount of adblocking can stop that.

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      Yep. I just track views using the AWS cloudfront stats. It's good enough to get an idea of what works and what doesn't. It's not a full fledged tracking system, but I respect user's desire to not be tracked like a lab rat.

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    I can't believe how close I came to asking this very question yesterday...

    I was searching around for solutions to this problem (in my case with Google analytics). I mostly came up short, so I'd be interested in seeing possible solutions.

    I did however see a write-up for a solution which involved some small modifications to the GA script so in terms of paying for a solution it would depend on how much and how elegant it is.

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      Nice catch. The solution would not require any modifications on an existing site, just installing an additional script that takes care of pretty much everything.

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    Does this tool track users on your own server? If it's client side and people disable external javascript libraries, I doubt that it can circumvent that. It would mean that you found an exploit in a browser.

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    We developed a tool that enables us to bypass all Ad Blockers effectively

    Awful idea. If a user has indicated that they do not want to be tracked, then you most definitely should not track them.

    Instead you should accept that analytics data is never absolute. You should not check the absolute values (today we got 1000 more users) but how it compares to previous data (today we got 10% more users than yesterday).

    I cannot see what is the problem that would be fixed with absolute analytics, especially if you deliberately go against your own users' wishes.

    Regarding how I see this myself as a marketer: on my tech blogs I see up to 50% of users use as blockers (comparing CDN hits with Google analytics hits). That's okay. I can see the trends from less amount of data.

    Consider GDPR too: You actually should ask your user for consent to track them (opt-in instead of opt-out).

    would be curious if anyone would be willing to pay for such solution

    There probably is business in your product, I won't deny that. But shady stuff was the reason why people started to use the blockers in the first place.

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    What do people think about restricting certain features to people who have agreed to turn off adblockers, much like is done on some streaming websites?