Disqus To Start Tracking Users for Targeted Ads


Several people from Disqus (including the CEO) have reached out to me about this policy. While I certainly haven’t changed my opinion on the matter, I do believe they’re being honest with their respect for users and website owners opting out of tracking. While I seriously hope they reconsider their user tracking policy in the future, things seem okay for now. I won’t be removing Disqus quite yet.

I’ve updated the post to clarify a few points made in the comments.

Disqus, the popular commenting system used by a variety of blogs including this one, recently implemented a change in their privacy policy. Of note, they’re going to begin harvesting personally identifiable data from users of the service for the purpose of showing them advertisements based on their browsing history.

I’ll quote the relevant section below, then provide a bit of commentary on what it means, and what I (and you) can do about it.

Disqus Says:

We may also share certain information such as your location, browser and cookie data and other data relating to your use of our Service with our business partners to deliver advertisements (“ads”) that may be of interest to you. Disqus may allow third-party ad servers or ad networks to serve advertisements on the Service. These third-party ad servers or ad networks use technology to send, directly to your browser or mobile device, the ads and ad links that appear on the Service, and will automatically receive your IP address when they do so. They may also use other technologies (such as cookies, JavaScript, device identifiers, location data, and clear gifs, see above) to compile information about your browser’s or device’s visits and usage patterns on the Service, and to measure the effectiveness of their ads and to personalize the advertising content.

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To be blunt, I consider this type of behavior morally wrong, and I don’t believe in supporting it. I’d like to make a few things clear:

In the short term, I’ve opted out of allowing Disqus to track AfterPad visitors, and I’m recommending that everyone who has a Disqus account choose to opt out of being tracked via the Data Sharing Settings page, because not every site is going to opt out of this type of thing.

In the longer term, I’m not sure what to do about this. I’d like to make one thing absolutely clear: I do NOT want to track visitors. I do NOT want anyone’s personal information. AfterPad will NEVER serve targeted ads. AfterPad will NEVER sell your personal information. The most information I want is the type of broad technology and popularity tracking I get from Google Analytics, and even there I’ve disabled interest tracking.

I consider tracking browser history to sell ads inherently wrong, from a moral perspective. Perhaps this is the minority view these days, judging from the rise of companies like Google and Facebook, but it’s how I feel on the matter.

So that brings me back to Disqus. I’m not sure how to handle this in the long term. For now, I’m hoping disabling tracking and advising users to turn it off is enough. For later, I have a few options:

For now, Disqus commenting will remain. Disqus’ policies seem relatively straightforward, and I have no reason to doubt that opting out of tracking does exactly what it says. As long as things stay that way, I’ll probably stick with Disqus. For the future, we’re left with a few less-than-ideal options. I’d love to hear from visitors and readers about what they’d like to see with regards to comments. Don’t be afraid to get in touch via
, or by commenting on this very post – again, tracking has been disabled on AfterPad. I’d love to get peoples’ thoughts on Disqus, and hear any ideas you might have. You can also reach out to Disqus to let them know how you feel about this change.