How to track users for analytics in a privacy-first, cookie-less future

I found him. I found the apex douchebag.

“our customers are able to stitch historical anonymous data to 95% of their converted users–this is even in the last few weeks after all the Apple device and browser privacy updates.”

Fuck these people.

@aral Maybe stop linking to their work given it’s so bad?

@anahata Or maybe it’s important for people to see how horrible they are.

@aral This is kinda funny.

1. Move cookies into URLs
2. Stitch other IDs with the URL ID

It's basically reusing the old techniques for crossdevice, but on weaker signals.

@aral Also 95% is awful.

It's 95% of single-session if the user does something identifiable. You don't get previous sessions of that user, and the majority of users don't convert.

We left the era of single-channel attribution a long time ago, you want to be able to combine display, ppc, email, into a single funnel. This does not do that.

@Eden So you’re saying he’s just a garden-variety douchebag?

@aral Basically, yes. He's bragging that it's a lot more significant than it is.

When I left marketing, the pitch I was trying to get through to companies is that user identification is now a deal you strike with the user.

Make your website worth logging into, so that users are trading their privacy for features.

Marketers would rather do *this*. It barely works, and it's just about tricking the client

@aral I've talked about this a few times, but the traditional ways of doing this have always been stitching together IDs across multiple areas.

What was common was using third and first party IDs as a master key, so that if both IDs changed at different times you could keep tracking the user.

Or emailing a user a link with their user id embedded in it worked well, because you can then tie that session to an actual person, worked well for cross device.

@aral The more nefarious fingerprinting never seemed to take off with anyone I worked with, I think everyone just saw it as a bit weird and a PR issue.

Then a lot more apps took off because the Android ID could be nabbed fairly easily. I wonder if companies will stop bothering with apps now that that ID is harder to use for marketing.

@aral something that makes me sad is that similar techniques could probably be used to stitch together all the bad behaviors the rich elites exhibit through their shell companies or whatever they do and trace it directly back to them. but no, they use these skills to help those people prey on us.

@aral Thank you for the latest guide. I hope I am in the 5% by using URL strippers, email cloaking, and other tools when not on TOR.

Isn't it a good thing they say it out loud?
Everybody is/was already doing it and that's a/the (big) problem.
Any sense of morals appears to be completely absent with capitalism :-/

And people who believe that 'anonymous' (or 'anonymized') data exists, are delusional.
So I consider it a positive that someone sets the record straight.

@FreePietje @aral Oh you can be anonymous, but it takes effort, more effort than should be necessary, and more effort that most people have time or willingness to do...

@FreePietje It’s always good when a Martin Shkreli pops up to make it impossible to ignore how horrible certain industries are, yes.

@aral its mind boggling how easily people chat about just tracking individuals. Fuck surveillance. Fuck capitalism. Fuck surveillance capitalism.

@atridad @aral they’ve managed to completely forget that the “user” is a human being with goals and intent, and instead look at them as just numbers to be converted.

That’s the thing I hate most about surveillance capitalism - it just completely dehumanises people to these fucking…numbers

@rfox @atridad It’s easy to forget people are people when we stop calling them people… and when we have a system that lionises extractive and manipulative behaviour befitting psychopaths.

@aral @atridad oh for sure, just as industrial capitalism reframed “nature” as “resources” we’re seeing the same thing with humans under surveillance capitalism.

The root of the problem isn’t in industry or surveillance. It’s in capitalism.

`Using the unique (non-PII!) identifiers in the URL` 🤣

I'd really like to see his face when a lawyer tells him that unique identifiers are always PII and he still needs consent for this.

@datacop @aral "especially top of funnel when those users are almost always anonymous" Referring to people arriving at your site as entering a "funnel"! We just are a stream of liquid from which to squeeze profit from, it seems 🙄

@aral @Framasoft
I just started a WordPress blog. Any good link on how to set up privacy friendly statistics tool to still have a rough idea of which posts are more or less popular? Then from these data's, how do we know, or is there statistics about if they are real reader or bots, maybe the view duration might be useful, is it possible without cookie and without tracking people specifically?

@schratze Yes. Where one side is soaked in capital and the other has their arms tied around their back.

@aral @schratze I have this crazy idea... Just hear me out... How about we just don't track people? I know, I know, it's insane, but I think we can do it. -_-

@seven @schratze Wow that is full on looney tunes… what like respect their human rights and stuff? Where do you come up with this zaniness?

@aral somebody should hire a PI, take hundreds of pictures of this techbro in every private moment of his life, doxx him good, then send the whole package to him with a note that says "sorry, this is only 95% of your life"

>Using the unique (non-PII!) identifiers in the URL, stitch the anonymous page views with your identified users using a data warehouse

>used to identify users

So which one is it? You can't have both.

@aral hmm, that is not a business plan. We need to give people practical alternatives.

@aral @EdwardTorvalds Perhaps by having the people using your services also be your actual customers? Getting your revenue stream from the people you would normally have a relation with, instead of the big players building a dystopia "just to serve ads"?

@nnh hard to say, because if your competitor start serving your customers for free, they what you are going to do? @aral

@EdwardTorvalds @nnh @aral

The central problem is the relationship between businesses and customers has become perverted.

Businesses used to exist without spying on people, the relationship was more reciprocal: customers paid for a product, businesses used that money to make the product.

Now, the relationship is much more dubious: businesses give you something "free" but secretly spy on you, then details of your life are then sold on to unknown third parties for unknown reasons. It's awful.

@FediFollows @EdwardTorvalds @nnh @aral and this is why I host my own stuff like Mastodon. Sure people can still federate and scrape data.. But its at rest in my own hands overall and its effort for big corps

@EdwardTorvalds @aral Well, I assume you have something unique to offer the people using your service, which gives you a competitive edge to leverage.

Privacy would be an additional advantage, something people desire - as evident from the launch of iOS 14. So you have a good story to back your business model.

You probably could also cut down complexity of your service, when you focus on delivering that unique value, leading to lower operational costs. (See what Maciej Cegłowski had to say about the Website Obesity Crisis.)

Longer term, you have the realisation that the big players can do this because they abuse monopolies, not because this is what people ask for. Clearly, the remedy is working to have competition restored, not to feed more resources into the monopolies.
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