dhowe edited this page Nov 28, 2017 · 237 revisions

Frequently Asked Questions

How?

Why?

Who?

How?

How do I install AdNauseam?

You can find easy install links for AdNauseam on Firefox, or Opera. Just click 'install' and get started. For Chrome, you will need to follow these instructions.

Note: you should always disable other adblockers while using AdNauseam

How do I uninstall AdNauseam?

What browsers does AdNauseam work with?

AdNauseam is compatible with all Chromium-based based browsers (e.g. Opera, Iron, Comodo Dragon, Vivaldi, etc), as well as Firefox and its derivatives (e.g., Firefox Mobile, Waterfox, etc). It requires workarounds on Google Chrome (and on a certain Firefox derivative), where it has been disallowed. If you are interested in working on a version for another browser (Safari, Edge, Brave, etc), please contact the developers directly (do NOT create a github issue for such requests).

Is AdNauseam compatible with Firefox Web Extensions?

AdNauseam is a fork of uBlock Origin. Thus, until there is a stable release of uBlock Origin for Web Extensions, there will be no AdNauseam version either. uBlock's expected date of release for Web Extensions is currently September 19th, 2017. Shortly thereafter, once we work out any merge issues, there will be an AdNauseam release. Keep up to date by checking the (uBlock and AdNauseam) release notes.

How do I install a development release of AdNauseam?

You can find AdNauseam development releases here. To install, follow the instructions for your browser of choice below:

Note: Dev releases of AdNauseam will only run on the Developer Edition of Firefox (download).

Prepare Firefox:

  1. Open you Firefox Developer Edition and type about:config into the url bar. When asked, choose to accept the risks.
  2. In the config panel, search for xpinstall.signatures.required. Make sure the value is set to false.


Install AdNauseam:

  1. Download a "Firefox" release. The file format is .xpi.
  2. In the browser navigate to Tools > Add-ons. In the side bar select "Extensions.
  3. Drag the file you downloaded in i. and drop it over the open extension page. A prompt will appear listing the required permissions. Click "Add extension" to install.
  • Opera
  1. Download a "Opera" release. The file format is .nex.
  2. In your Opera Browser navigate to Opera > Preferences. In the side bar select the puzzle piece symbol/"Extensions".
  3. Drag the file you downloaded in i) and drop it over the open extension page. A notification will inform about the the permissions it asks for. Click "Install".

       Note: you should always disable other adblockers while using AdNauseam

Can I use AdNauseam with my current adblocker?

It is possible, but since your adblocker will likely block some, or all, of the Ads AdNauseam is collecting, this is NOT recommended. For the best experience, you should disable other adblockers while using AdNauseam.

What is AdNauseam's performance like? Will it speed up or slow down my browsing?

AdNauseam is significantly faster (and safer) than using either of the two most popular blockers, Adblock or Adblock Plus, and nearly twice as fast as using no blocker at all. Metrics with more browsers and adblockers on the way...

Benchmark

Tested on the top 15 most popular news sites, with Chrome v55.0.28, Jan 13, 2017
AdNauseam v3.1.2, Adblock Plus v1.12.4, AdBlock v3.8.4

 

Does AdNauseam's clicking put me at risk for malicious Ads or ransomware?

Absolutely not. AdNauseam simulates clicks on Ads by issuing an AJAX request to the adserver in a background process. This request is made without opening any additional windows or pages on your computer. The text-only request is safely discarded by AdNauseam before it has a chance to execute in the browser (no DOM is constructed and no code is ever allowed to run). Further, all cookies from AdNauseam's visits are automatically blocked before they reach the browser's local storage.

Are you also tracking my clicks on your own servers?

No, we do not collect any information on users whatsoever.

Does AdNauseam block ads or just hide them?

Most adblockers (including uBlock, AdBlock-Plus, etc.) work via a combination of blocking and hiding strategies. Requests for some ads are blocked outright, while other Ads (text-only Ads, like those found on Google Search, are one common example) are first downloaded, then made invisible on the page. This is also how AdNauseam works. We simply treat image-Ads above a minimum size as if they were text-only Ads. And just like other adblockers, AdNauseam does block malware and non-visual trackers.

Who can tell that I’m using AdNauseam?

Various parties may be able to detect AdNauseam, including websites (with Ads) that you visit, advertisers, and and Ad-networks (there may be additional parties behind the scenes of which we are not aware.) If they detect enough users, we hope they will get the message. AdNauseam and systems like it allow users to communicate their dissatisfaction directly, unmediated by vested interests who might claim to speak on our behalf.

Does AdNauseam's automatic Ad-clicking create billable events for advertisers?

It depends on the advertising business model and the degree of effort they are willing to put into filtering. Some might, others would not.

How and why does AdNauseam make exceptions for non-tracking ads?

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (eff.org) has created an emerging standard (called 'Do Not Track') for sites pledging to provide a surveillance-free experience for their users. We collaborated with the EFF to deploy a dynamic whitelist for non-tracking sites (updated regularly by the EFF) in AdNauseam. We see this as an important feature in because the project does not categorically oppose online advertising, but rather only the intrusive, surveillance-based advertising model which currently dominates. Hence this exception is enabled by default, but users who do not want to join us in supporting this non-tracking model can change their settings accordingly. For more details, see this entry.

What is the EFF's 'Do Not Track' standard and how it is supported in AdNauseam?

When you first install AdNauseam, you will see "Make exceptions for non-tracking Ads" checked for you by default. This option applies to sites that follow the EFF's Do Not Track standard. With 'Do Not Track (DNT)' enabled, AdNauseam will send the DNT header and then allow requests from sites who have pledged to respect this emerging standard. This means that Ads may be visible on these sites (they will still be collected by AdNauseam), and clicks on these Ads will be disabled.

Of course you can change any these behaviors by visiting the AdNauseam settings page and checking either:

  • "Don't hide non-tracking Ads"(Under "Hiding Ads")
  • "Don't click non-tracking Ads"(Under "Clicking Ads")

For example, you can still hide the Ads from DNT sites, in order to enjoy Ad-free browsing, while leaving clicking disabled, so as to still respect those sites which have pledged to behave ethically.

When you are browsing DNT sites, the AdNauseam icon in the toolbar will turn green and you will receive DNT info in the AdNauseam menu.

What does it mean when the AdNauseam icon turns green?

This means that the current page is served from a site that has committed to the EFF's Do Not Track standard and thus does not engage in user-tracking (nor do any of its 3rd-party affiliates). For details on the AdNauseam options for 'Do Not Track sites', see this entry.

Why does the Ad vault not load all my ads when I open it?

The Ad vault limits the initial number of displayed ads to 300 when the vault opens, to avoid a long wait while images load. The user can, however, drag the date slider at bottom to show as many ads as desired.

How does AdNauseam estimate the click cost it shows in the menu and vault?

Pay-per-Click (PPC) is a common internet advertising model in which advertisers pay for individual clicks on Ads. The cost involved varies widely depending on a number of factors. One important factor is the type of website the Ad appears on; whether a normal 'display' website, or a 'search' website where the Ads shown are based on the user's query. The latter is generally more effective, with prices commonly calculated on the spot through a real-time bidding system. Display Ads may use fixed prices or other pricing models to determine click cost. Depending on these and other factors, costs per click range from below 1$ to over $50. As the precise cost generated by clicks is not visible to the client, AdNauseam calculates an estimate using an average value of $1.58 for each clicked Ad. This value is taken from this analysis, in which various advertising models and platforms are taken into account.

How does AdNauseam "hide Ads"?

In contrast to other blockers, AdNauseam does not block conventional, visual Ads, but hides them instead (when configured by the user to do so). This does not prevent such resources from being downloaded, but only impacts the way the page is rendered in your browser. This is done as safely as possible, with cookies, and other identifiers disabled (by default) for all Ad requests.

Once an Ad has been detected, CSS is used to render it invisible and to collapse the surrounding DOM if necessary. The rules for Ad detection are stored in a wide range of community-sourced and managed filter lists, each of which may be enabled or disabled in the 3rd-party-filters panel. Additionally, hiding itself may be disabled, either globally, for a site, or for a page, via the settings panels.

How does AdNauseam "click Ads"?

AdNauseam 'clicks' Ads by issuing an HTTP request to the URL to which they lead. In current versions the is done via an XMLHttpRequest (or AJAX request) issued in a background process. This lightweight request signals a 'click' on the server responsible for the Ad, but does so without opening any additional windows or pages on your computer. Further it allows AdNauseam to safely receive and discard the resulting response data, rather than executing it in the browser, thus preventing a range of potential security problems (ransomware, rogue Javascript or Flash code, XSS-attacks, etc.) caused by malfunctioning or malicious Ads. Although it is completely safe, AdNauseam's clicking behaviour can be de-activated in the settings panel.

How does AdNauseam "Block Malicious Ads"?

While visual Ads are not usually blocked by AdNauseam, beacons, non-visual trackers, and other potentially malicious content can be blocked altogether. The detection of domains known to deliver such content is managed via the same set of user-configurable filter lists used to detect visual Ads. Additionally, AdNauseam's blocking behavior can be de-/activated in the settings panel, either for a site, a page, or globally (though this last option is strongly discouraged).

Does AdNauseam respect the browser's private-browsing/incognito modes?

Yes, AdNauseam does not collect or click Ads that occur on pages loaded in private-browsing or incognito windows.

Can I combine AdNauseam with another blocker?

This is generally not a good idea, as other blockers (uBlock, Privacy Badger, AdBlock Plus, etc.) may conflict with AdNauseam, and/or each other, and are unlikely to give added protection even in cases where they do not directly conflict.

Can I combine AdNauseam and TrackMeNot?

Absolutely -- these two extensions should work happily together...

What is user tracking? How does tracking work?

When you visit a webpage, parts of the page may come from domains and servers other than the one you asked to visit. This is an essential feature of the web, but it has also come to be a serious privacy problem. Nowadays embedded images and code often use cookies, fingerprinting, and other methods to track your browsing habits — often in order to display targeted advertisements. The domains that do this are called "third party trackers".You can read more about how they work on the excellent EFF page.

What is the EasyList filter and why do I get a warning when it is disabled?

The EasyList filter list, shown on the 3RD-PARTY-FILTERS page in SETTINGS, is a set of publicly-available, crowd-sourced rules that come included with the extension. These rules include cosmetic filters that allow us to collect a high percentage of common Ads you are likely to encounter. You can read more about the EasyList project here. AdNauseam will still function without this filter, but far fewer Ads will be collected. Thus we recommend keeping this filter enabled at all times (and notify you with a warning when it is not).

What do purple entries in the logger represent?

Purple entries represent requests that would normally be blocked by one or more lists, but are instead allowed by AdNauseam, as they may result in visible ads (see also).

What is the AdNauseam filter list?

The AdNauseam filter list, shown at the top of the 3RD-PARTY-FILTERS page in SETTINGS, is a set of hand-crafted rules that come included with the extension. These include cosmetic rules that allow us to collect specific types of Ads, as well as blocking and exception rules to make sure that pages render correctly after Ads are removed. AdNauseam will still function without this filter, but far fewer Ads will be collected and some content may render incorrectly. Thus we recommend keeping this filter enabled at all times (and notify you with a warning when it is not).

What is the "click-probability" setting?

This setting lets you control the likelihood that each discovered Ad will actually be clicked by AdNauseam. 'Always' means that every Ad discovered will be clicked, while 'Rarely' means that very few ads will be clicked(10%).

Sometimes it appears that there are multiples of the same Ad in the AdVault?

This sometimes happens. AdNauseam tests for Ad uniqueness of image-Ads by comparing the URLs of the displayed image. However, some Ad networks use different URLs in different Ads for the same image resource (often, but not always, with some additional tracking data in the query-string). In such cases, there is no simple/efficient way for AdNauseam to recognize that the images are the "same". One proposal for how to deal with this was suggested here.

Why have options from earlier versions been removed?

AdNauseam is a work in progress, with new features continually being added, tuned, and, sometimes, deprecated. If a setting no longer appears in the settings page, we have likely found a better means of implementing the design goal. For information about specific deprecated settings, please consult our DevFAQ or send us a query at adnauseam-dev [@] rednoise.org.

Can I use AdNauseam while logged into my Youtube channel?

We have heard reports of logged-in users having their Youtube channels suspended by Google due to alleged Terms-of-Service violations. While we have only anecdotal evidence of this practice on the part of Google/Youtube, we advise users to log out of their Youtube accounts when using AdNauseam. In fact, for general online privacy, we recommend that users always log out of all Google-related accounts when not directly using them.

I found a bug! What do I do now?

First, please make sure the bug hasn't already been reported by checking the current bug list. If the bug hasn't yet been reported you can report it there. If you don't have a GitHub account, please create one so that we can communicate with you about the bug and fix it more quickly.

If you're not comfortable creating a ticket (or don't want to create a GitHub account), you can also report the bug via email to adnauseam-issues [@] rednoise.org.

Why?

Does the project oppose all advertising or only advertising you believe is abusive (e.g., tracking)?

The intent of this project is not to oppose online advertising categorically. We are instead attempting to bring to light a system that has overtaken the web, whereby Ads are just the tip of the iceberg and serve as a delivery system for a massive back-end surveillance architecture that tracks us continually. It is not advertising we are protesting, but advertising insofar as it represents a dominant means of tracking users without their consent. In fact, for sites who wish respectfully serve ads to their users, we recommend adopting the EFF's Do Not Track standard (and, incidentally, you will no longer be blocked by default in tools like AdNauseam or PrivacyBadger).

For those who argue that advertising drives consumerism, irresponsible consumption and other behaviors that threaten the survival of our species, we hear you. However it is not our intent to address such issues in this project.

Isn't it safer just to use an adblocker? Why engage with ad-networks at all?

While AdNauseam is far safer than using no blocker at all, it is indeed marginally safer for one to simply use a strong adblocker and protect themselves. But it is also safer to stay at home rather than to attend a protest. Using an adblocker does little to change the status quo (especially for those users without the resources to install/configure one, and so remain at risk). AdNauseam, and the obfuscation strategy in general, instead presents a possible avenue for collective resistance; a means of questioning and perhaps eventually, changing the system. But this is not for everyone. If your goal is primarily self-protection, this tool may not be for you...

What must advertisers do to win the trust of Internet users?

One good option is to advertise on sites that respect the EFF's Do Not Track standard (and, incidentally, you will no longer be blocked by default in tools like AdNauseam or PrivacyBadger).

But there are many other ways that the status quo can be improved without damaging the Web ecosystem, e.g. non-tracking ads, contextual advertising, and client-side ad profiling (see Adnostic). Alternatively, web-sites and publishers might switch to advertising networks that don't violate the privacy of users (Deck appears to have been one such example).

What made you choose data obfuscation as the strategy here?

We believe obfuscation is an important form of resistance to data tyranny. It can frustrate surveillance, help users to express their discontent, and act as a communal, rather than merely individual, practice. (For further discussion, see References [coming soon])

This is interesting, do you know of other similar obfuscation initiatives along these lines?

There are many such instance, both in digital media and beyond. Please see the following articles (1, 2) for a range of examples.

How does AdNauseam's clicking differ from 'click-fraud'?

We understand what click-fraud is and do not believe we are engaging in it (nor do the lawyers we have consulted). Turning the tables, we would like to hear why someone holds that AdNauseam does commit click fraud. Would they say the same of anyone who clicks on an Ad in which they are not really interested?

"Click Fraud is the practice of falsely clicking on advertiser’s sponsored links to gain credit for the publisher while charging fraudulent, invalid clicks to the advertiser." (from http://clickfraud.org)

But what about "good" sites who don't track -- doesn't AdNauseam also block their ads?

We very much believe that users should be allowed to 'whitelist' any and all sites they want to support. In fact, this is why we provide built-in support for the EFF's Do Not Track mechanism to support sites that pledge to respect user privacy. But you can also whitelist any site, whether or not they are on the EFF's list. To learn how to add a site to your whitelist, see this page.

What is the "end goal" of AdNauseam? Confusing data so it becomes useless for advertisers and forces them to react?

Yes, one goal of AdNauseam is protecting users from privacy violations and other harms that might follow directly or indirectly from tracking to which they have not consented. Another goal is to provide a means for users to let advertisers know that they don’t think such a system is ok. So yes, we would love to advertisers to respond with constructive alternatives which respect the values and preferences of users, but we are not holding our breath -- it may be that very different ways of supporting online content will need to be developed. But the real end goal of AdNauseam is to make software like AdNauseam unnecessary.

Is there a business model behind AdNauseam? Do you consider yourself a business, or is it solely to make some kind of a statement about the state of web advertising?

There is no business model behind AdNauseam. It is simply an attempt by concerned individuals to address abuses against users by powerful corporate entities. The software is and will remain free and open-source and will never surreptitiously collect data on users.

Donations / is that your REAL business model?

So you're thinking of donating to AdNauseam. First of all, thanks. We really appreciate it. If you can write JavaScript code, this is our favorite donation currency.

Otherwise, we are very happy with Bitcoin donations. Why Bitcoin? Because it's anonymous and comes with no strings attached. AdNauseam is a purely volunteer research effort and we have no business model whatsoever. Donations will help us pay for swag like stickers, t-shirts, or an occasional beer to drink (responsibly) next to the laptop, stuff that could help advance the project. Donations will never be mission critical and will never dictate if, when, or how a feature is developed or a decision is made.

If this sounds fair to you and you still want to show your support through a donation, please use the following Bitcoin address: 1NiwkdL8Dm9DiTxp7uxNVDnxESAotg6En2

And again, thank you.

Are you concerned that adblocking technology is part of the reason companies like Facebook are so keen to deploy "native advertising" -- Ads that masquerade as editorial content?

We can't answer for Facebook's decisions to insert advertising material inadvertently into other content. Media companies have utilized this approach before and will likely continue to attempt to confuse individuals into paying attention with new techniques, once resistance has developed to entrenched methods. In print media, some governments have found the practice sufficiently unethical to require publishers clearly to distinguish advertising from editorial content.

Who?

Daniel C Howe

Daniel is an artist, researcher and critical technologist based in New York and Hong Kong. He leads all development on the project. You can contact him on Twitter at @danielchowe or by email at daniel [@] rednoise.org

Helen Nissenbaum

Helen is a leading scholar of digital privacy at New York University. She is an advisor on the project and even wrote a book inspired by it. You can contact her at helen.nissenbaum [@] nyu.edu

Mushon Zer-Aviv

Mushon is a designer, educator and media activist based in Tel Aviv. Mushon leads the design on AdNauseam. You can contact him on Twitter at @mushon or by email at mushon [@] shual.com

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