Objecting to "Legitimate Interest" at Scale

07 October 2021

This post is mainly for me to have somewhere to store this snippet I use, but might be of use to others.

In 2021, browsing the web requires spending about 10% of your time opting out of the use of tracking cookies, and objecting to advertising tracker companies assertion of "legitimate interest" in your private information. I object in principle to advertising trackers. The industry around them profits from gathering biased data and legitimizes the reinforcement of those biases - that systematic discrimination - by training "neural networks" and pretending that they must be objective and unbiased because a computer did it. Besides, random corporations shouldn't get to quietly spy on us and sell their observations to advertizers, that's creepy. If you'd like to read more, check out Cathy O'Neil's great book, Weapons of Math Destruction.

Therefore, when a website asks me to let them and a thousand "ad partners" track me, I say no. Or, at least, I try to. There are so many nefarious dark patterns in cookie consent popups. Facebook and Google seem to require the user to go to a separate page, leaving the content they were looking for behind in favour of having to spend 5 minutes deciphering legalese. Others style the link to the settings page to not look like a link, making you think there's no settings.

One pattern that really annoys me is when a website has "partnerships" with hundreds of ad companies, and doesn't let you object to their claims of legitimate interest all at once, leaving you to click on many hundreds of buttons. I had one of these show up recently, and I didn't enjoy it. So after clicking the first few buttons and realizing how many there were, I jumped into the console. Here's the snippet that objected to all the "legitimate interest" claims in a cookie consent dialog provided by a company called Admiral.

Array.from(document.querySelectorAll("input:checked")).map(input => input.click())

The company provides a few services including a paywall system, privacy/consent dialogs, registration walls/email acquisition (scams), and even a service called "adblock recovery", which claims to basically bypass adblock systems.

Imagine a world where the advertising industry didn't see their audience as adversaries. Alas, we're in the bad timeline.

Anyway, I plan to run that snippet when I see the "Admiral" logo.