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.
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.
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:
- Disqus has provided website owners the ability to opt-out visitors from this type of tracking, and I’ve obviously chosen to do that.
- Disqus users can opt out of being tracked via the Data Sharing Settings page. If you comment on this blog or others using Disqus, you should do this.
- Opting out inserts a cookie on to your device that tells Disqus not to track you. If you delete your cookies, it will start tracking you again.
- Disqus apparently honors the Do Not Track included in most modern web browsers. Safari users can enable this in Safari’s “Privacy and Security” settings section.
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:
- I could disable comments entirely. This gets rid of any privacy implications, but it also blocks a LOT of really useful feedback I’ve received from many people. Comments have made AfterPad a better place, and I’d hate to lose them.
- I could build my own comment system. The problem here is, I have no idea how to do this, and I’d also have to start registering users myself, which brings back the fact that I don’t want to track people or collect information from them.
- I could replace commenting with another communication method, such as building a forum. The problem here is, I don’t particularly want to run a forum, and there already are forums for MFi gaming and general iOS gaming.
- I could rely solely on Twitter for communication. The problem here is, I don’t particularly like Twitter’s privacy policies either, and I don’t want to endorse this as the best way to communicate.
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
Email, 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.