How did this ad get served to me?
August 23, 2014 7:42 AM   Subscribe

Surprising coincidence or are adblock/ghostery/etc not actualy effective?

On my macbook, using chrome, with adblock plus and ghostery installed, I had searched for a review of a particular backpack.

Later that same day, my facebook newsfeed on my iOS device (and therefore with no adblockers available) included an ad for that very same backpack.

Is this a REMARKABLE coincidence, or are my Chrome plugins not actually blocking the adservers/trackers they say they are?

All are updated to the most recent lists.
posted by modernnomad to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
Were you logged into facebook while surfing the first time? That could be enough.
posted by grog at 7:53 AM on August 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yup, Facebook is evil that way. A couple weeks ago I was talking to someone and searched for (and visited) his largish company that I had never heard of before. Next time I went to FB, bam, ads for that company. I am adblocked as well.
posted by cgg at 8:25 AM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You didn't specifically ask, but assuming you want to know "and if so, how DO I block Facebook ads?" - I'm a huge fan of Social Fixer.
posted by hishtafel at 8:43 AM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try something that deletes your browser history, cookies, active logins, form data, etc each time you shut your browser or press the button. Click and clean seems to work okay on firefox, and is available for chrome.

You might also check that you have the "allow some non-intrusive advertising" box unchecked in adblock's filter preferences dialogue, and maybe even try out the "facebook annoyances" filter.
posted by Ahab at 8:45 AM on August 23, 2014

Things I browse on Amazon and other shopping sites follow me here and elsewhere, and I am not on Facebook. It's everywhere. And now I go off to look into Social Fixer to see if it can help me. :)
posted by Lardmitten at 8:47 AM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think something slipped through Ghostery and one of the ad retargeting services saw you were interested in backpacks and told Facebook. I'm a little puzzled about why AdBlock didn't block the ad on Facebook, but maybe it wasn't an identifiable ad unit so much as an in-line story? Fucking Facebook.

If you want to track this down, the thing to do is start a fresh version of Chrome with an empty profile. Install AdBlock and Ghostery. Then log into Facebook, then search for your backpack, then go back to Facebook. Do you see the ad? You might or might not. But you might learn what's leaking through Ghostery by looking at the cookies that are left after your experiment. Of course there's other ways to identify browsers now than cookies, ways the user can't really detect, so it might remain a mystery.
posted by Nelson at 9:00 AM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, like Social Fixer is Facebook Purity.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:15 AM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just realized I also had the "Facebook Disconnect" extension installed, and yet this still happened...
posted by modernnomad at 9:20 AM on August 23, 2014

In addition to the possibility that Ghostery failed to block one of many, many trackers that modern advertising uses there is a distinct chance that you shopped for the backpack on one of the websites that uses BlueKai. If they do, there is no technological way to block them from sharing information. BlueKai can track you with cookies native to the store you were shopping at as well as obtain information from the backend of the site you are browsing and pass the information to Facebook when you log in to target ads to you. They are very very good at building a list of what you are likely to purchase and relentless. They can share data from the store's servers so client-side blocking doesn't stop them, so long as the sites you visit have enough information to personally identify you (and Facebook certainly does).
posted by Lame_username at 10:31 AM on August 23, 2014

I use Chrome for all my browsing, except for Facebook - a couple of times a day I log in there on Safari and I don't use Safari for anything else. I started this a while ago to avoid the crap I would see on news sites like The Guardian showing me how many of my friends like this page. Works pretty well, and would fix this problem as well.
posted by jontyjago at 11:07 AM on August 23, 2014

I had a weird thing recently: I searched google maps on my phone for a particular, obscure location. Then, I was at my dad's house, and typed in the first letter of a search on google maps, and it suggested the obscure location I'd searched on my phone. I'm pretty sure it made the connection based on my dad and I being known google contacts.
posted by latkes at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2014

Because my newer MacBookPro still gives me a slight headache and makes my eyes burn after a couple of hours, I still use an old PowerBook for a lot of my browsing despite the fact that a failed software update is apparently keeping it from accepting any new ones, and a lot of certificates seem to have expired, or been issued by authorities my decrepit old machine doesn't recognize.

Including one for FaceBook, and about 4-5 months ago I started getting a little dropdown from some sites advising me that 'Safari can't verify the identity of the website [blahblahblah] jeopardize your information [blah] would you like to be connected to anyway?'

And since then it's spread from a few scattered sites to three-quarters of the sites I visit; not this one, not the NYT, not ScienceDaily, and not government sites, but the Guardian has it, and so does every site I know to be hosted by a commercial blogging platform, including the contacts page of a muckraking site which promises its readers absolute anonymity when they get in touch with it via that page.

Changing DNS settings has had no effect, and it has no apparent connection to the presence or absence of a FaceBook like button. If it was coming from my ISP, I'd expect it to be more universal -- and the two sites I've contacted about it have no idea what's going on.

And neither do I, really, but I've been waiting for a question here about strangely effective and apparently unblockable FaceBook tracking, and you've asked it.

If you can find Facebook's certificate recognition on your machine/browser and block it . . . it would probably be hard to tell whether that did anything or not.
posted by jamjam at 4:57 PM on August 23, 2014

Adblock is a company started by... An advertising company! So while they won't show you ads, they're sure as heck not going to stop other companies from collecting data on you. Their product does what they say it does... And absolutely nothing more.
posted by Yowser at 12:08 AM on August 24, 2014

are adblock/ghostery/etc not actualy effective

I just realized I also had the "Facebook Disconnect" extension installed, and yet this still happened...

I think the truth is that no general solution is going to be 100% effective, at least not in the long term. The internet is a big soup of different technologies and platforms, and Facebook is a giant technology company at the forefront of user tracking research and design, making new things up as they go. The blockers only come in after the fact, to mitigate whatever is the newest trend in tracking tech. You are fighting an uphill battle all the way here, I'm afraid.
posted by grog at 7:09 AM on August 24, 2014

Did you actually enable all the filters in Ghostery? As far as I can tell, most of them are off by default.
posted by neckro23 at 8:57 PM on August 24, 2014

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