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Out in the Open: Ex-Google Ad Man Saves You From Ad Hell

By Wired News

January 2, 2014

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The World Privacy Forum recently told the U.S. Congress the data brokerage industry is making millions of dollars selling lists of all kinds of data, giving marketers the power to bombard consumers with emails, phone calls, and ads.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. John Rockefeller and his Senate investigation committee recently studied the massive amounts of consumer data that brokers collect online and off, criticizing how little is known about how the data is collected and used.

To solve this problem, former Google employee Brian Kennish has developed Disconnect2, an open source Web browser plugin. Disconnect began as a project to block the tracking script built into the Facebook buttons and widgets found on websites. Disconnect2 blocks more than 2,500 cookies and tracking scripts, making users virtually invisible to advertisers and third-party traffic-monitoring tools, but it does not block first-party services.

Disconnect is a benefit corporation, which means the company puts social or environmental concerns ahead of maximizing shareholder value. Its business model enables the company to keep the code for its plugins open source without seeking other ways of making money. "As we expand into other platforms, we'll experiment with other models," Kennish says.

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