After running Collusion for a few days, I wanted to see if there was an easy method to stop data collection. Naively, I went to the self-regulatory site run by the Network Advertising Initiative and completed their “Opt Out” form. I did so for the dozens of companies listed and I would say that it was a simple and nominally effective process. That said, I wasn’t sure if data would stop being collected on me or not. The site itself does not say that data collection will stop, but it’s also not clear that data collection will continue. In fact, the overview of NAI’s principles freely mixes talk about how the organization’s code “limits the types of data that member companies can use” with information about the opt-out process.
After opting out, I went back to Collusion to see if companies were still tracking me. I found that many, many companies appeared to be logging data for me. According to Mozilla, the current version of Collusion does not allow me to see precisely what companies are still tracking, but Stanford researchers using Collusion found that at least some companies continue to collect data. All that I had “opted out” of was receiving targeted ads, not data collection. There is no way, through the companies’ own self-regulatory apparatus, to stop being tracked online. None.