Little cats “very nice”. A cat knows how to say “no”. Another dread of zucchini. On YouTube, my usual recommendations – consisting of Squeezie videos, video games, or sets of Zelda relaxing music (each to their own taste) – are gone. The screen now displays a series of paws, and a torrent of hairy little faces. Normal: I’m not really sure “for me” Internet.
Here, we explore the digital world of Macada Meow, a netizen with a passion for cats. So much so that if his browsing history is to be believed, he has decided to marry his cat. No need to contact the SPA: Macada Meow does not exist. It is one of the 40 fictional characters in Cookie Factory, a Chrome extension that allows you to surf the Internet with another identity, Release He has access to the preview. To do so, it offers its users to replace their own cookies, those small text files that track their browsing on a site, with those that track a fan, a hacker, a survivor or even a caveman.
This somewhat crazy invention was revealed on Thursday, during the General Conference of UNESCO, and it has one goal: to educate Internet users about managing their personal data as well as respecting their privacy. “People often accept their data collection very recklessly,” regret release him Lucy Guidon, an employee of the Paris advertising agency DDB, is at the origin of the project.
Amazon and Flatheads
Three clicks and the address screen of the psychedelic cookie factory appears. In a stunning explosion of motion pictures and a haunting soundtrack, Flat Cookie replaces Macada Meow. A little peculiarity: he is convinced that the Earth is flat. Platonists forum, YouTube videos, find books on the topic … To create this profile, the algorithm created by DDB scanned more than a hundred web pages. The result: Amazon is well aware of Flat Cookie’s convictions, and is brimming with suggestions like 100 Proofs That The Earth Is Not A Ball The Biggest Lie On Earth The Earth Is Not A Planet…
What comes out of it? “The ability of the Internet to lock the box” and for “to polarize” The community, regrets Mathieu Bliget, responsible for UNESCO at the DDB. Before adding: “We often have the idea that the Internet is supposed to open the chakras, but in fact it only feeds in one direction… the direction that corresponds to the profile of the Internet user.”
In addition to quarantining displayed identities, Cookie Factory offers the ability to “Make your own recipe” of cookies. The user can select gender, age group as well as a certain number of centers of interest to create a tailor-made Internet user. In total, there are 150 million different profiles possible. It is enough to notice the effect of targeted advertising. Alexis Benbehi, who is also a member of the project, deplores: “Today, we are constantly watching. We don’t notice how much we are personally presented with. But when we take on a different profile than we are, that changes everything.” An adult about to get married will run into a series of wedding dress ads on their digital track, a teen with a passion for parkour will be targeted by an Extreme sports video game, and investor training will be offered to a major trading fanatic…
Soon more cookies in the box?
Of course, as described in an article in August before Release, it is possible to cover tracks thanks to “data poisoning”. The idea: planting Gafa by poisoning its data thanks to extensions like AdNauseam by clicking on all possible ads on the page in order to make advertisers dizzy. To create a cookie system, Privacy Badger blocks trackers that seek to know previously visited web pages.
Legal measures have also been taken to avoid overdose. In October 2020, CNIL published its recommendation on targeted advertising. In the latter, the French Data Protection Constable provides the implementation of consent banners on websites which makes it possible to refuse all cookies easily. Along the same lines, UNESCO on Thursday revealed its ethical recommendation for artificial intelligence. In addition to protecting Internet users’ data, these suggestions have multiple goals: that facial recognition tools do not perpetuate racial or sex bias, that search engines have more diverse results or that artificial intelligence systems are useful in fighting global warming.
For its part, Google has even announced that third-party cookies – these little files that track Internet users from one site to another – will disappear by the end of 2023. The beginning of a new, more privacy-respecting era.? I’m not sure because to replace its ad trackers, the American giant will rely on another technology called “FLoC”, for “unified learning of phages”. Thanks to the latter, Chrome will group users with similar navigation into groups. Essentially, the company will target groups of internet users with similar browsing history rather than tricking each internet user by tracking them through their individual cookies.
Given the ability to give artificial intelligence to freely browse everyone’s browsing history, Pierre Mathonat, another creator of the cookie maker, isn’t too enthusiastic about the idea: “Their project is still theoretical but it seems more intrusive to me.” On the other hand, the digital giant defends itself by saying that this system will make it possible to flood the data of Internet users into the block … and thus will be more respectful of their private lives. In the absence of a gold nugget, we at least have a beautiful nugget of ill will.