Online tracking gets really personal

"Subject seems unsatisfied. Moving around a lot now. Curious and energetic!"

When online tracking gets really personal

5 years ago
0:48 follows your every move, to openly show you the data gathering that goes on in the background when you're online. 0:48

Most of us probably have some idea that data is collected about our behaviour when we go online. Now, a new website shows you just how much data can be gathered simply from the way you use your browser. It's also fun!

ClickClickClick is the brainchild of Studio Moniker, an Amsterdam-based design studio that developed the site along with Studio Puckey and VPRO Medialab. The idea is to openly display the kind of data that websites often gather, but that is usually hidden.

When you visit clickclickclick, you see a white screen, with a green button marked "button" and instructions to turn on your sound. Almost immediately, it begins creating a list of how you're interacting with the site: "subject has opened website in Chrome," "cursor speed is average when compared to all other subjects" or "subject dragged the button with a right click." You, of course, are the subject.

But here's where it starts to get weird. You also hear an alternately charming and creepy voice evaluating your behaviour, as though it's the voice of a scientist, and you are the test subject.

Roel Wouters is one of the creators of ClickClickClick. "We thought about [the voice] a lot and we would have loved it to sound a little bit like Agent Cooper of Twin Peaks," Roel says. But for now, the voice is Roel himself.

Clickclickclick was commissioned by the Dutch national broadcaster, which was working on a project about online privacy. Reaction to the project has been overwhelmingly positive, even though people seem to find the voiceover "creepy."

"I think what we did was actually quite naive," says Roel. "In reality there's way more complex profiling going on than what we do purely by measuring the browser behaviour. I was actually surprised that people thought that [clickclickclick] was so intrusive. I didn't expect that."

Asked why he thought clickclickclick has struck such a chord, Roel says that people online "are always a bit insecure about the things that they do...because they always talk about: 'Google or Facebook, they are tracking us'," Roel reflects. "[Clickclickclick] really makes it clear in a very blunt and simple way."


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