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Ads and tracking and blocking

Dear Duo,

I like Duolingo and I would love to help keep it free. I would even disable my uBlock for it!

But I do not like to be tracked. And until I stop seeing google-analytics, mixpanel and quantserve in my request-logger, I will not be able to disable anything :(

(That would be unless you suggest specific resources I could unblock. But, again, I will not unblock soul-less companies like the above or similar (incl. the f*bk).)

There must be free-as-in-freedom solutions for analysing user interaction and for responsibly displaying ads. I would love to see Duo adopt those if that helps keep it free (!) for us all.

Would love to hear your suggestions on this!

Thank you so much! :) All the best, d7

December 29, 2017



Don't use Google, don't use Facebook; that is the only way you can avoid them. They will still record your data as an unknown user but will be unable to put it to much work. We now live in the era of Big Data; there are no 'free-as-in-freedom solutions'. Everyone is just a data-stream for the algorithms to process.


They should still be able to relate such activity to 'a user', tie it to, e.g., my phone, possibly relate it with some margin of error to my old accounts etc. Also, there are open source solutions that Duo could host itself, such as https://github.com/piwik But let's not make this discussion about the details of tracking and respective software solutions.

I suggest we assume there are better solutions than Big Brother's Big Data and discuss how Duo could go about it's ad strategy. (Keep in mind: If everybody paid that would solve it. If everybody paid that would render this whole issue mute since it would no longer be free.)


It is simply not Duo's mission to develop this. They get their funding from the ad streams, and this would not be in their interests.

If it is not to your tastes - and I can understand why it would not be, although you are swimming upstream in this and will find yourself increasingly cut off from access to information in the modern world - then you can not use DL, or you can purchase Plus.


I do not see how it would be against Duo's interests to provide responsible ads and use usage analyzers less privacy intrusive. It is simply a matter of whether Duo chooses to care or not. And I was merely adding my humble voice in favor of a better website for all: Recognising the need to improve usability, to raise funds also through ads - and to respect users (privacy) at the same time.

I can use Duolingo right now without (much) concern for my privacy, because I block most of the bad stuff. I can also use it and (not) pay money as one of the commentators pointed out.

What I cannot do, but would like to, is use it and support it through seeing ads, while not being spied upon by idiotic companies. :(


It is not in DL's interests to expend resources on something that has little (or negative) effect on its objectives (in this case, its cash-flow); I think we users who care on an abstract level about this kind of mass data-collection by the likes of Google are too much of a minority to exert any influence over DL's choice of ad revenue system. In addition, we might be more likely as a consequence to buy plus in order to avoid the ads, making it in DL's interests to do the opposite of what we wish.

As Dcarl1 says, the tide of history is moving inexorably in this direction: the principles that allow the mass collection of processing of data are what gave us DL in the first place. The foundations that support many of the marvels of modernity consist of the crushed hardcore of individual privacy. I don't like it, but that isn't going to alter its course one jot.


So why talk about it? ;) The whole point is to discuss it, raise the issue. Boring, but the only way. Also: the reality of the net is not as bleak as you paint it; there are various organisations/websites/even companies doing it right when it comes to privacy etc. Duo could join them.

Duo says it offers something precious, wants to make the world better etc. We have to remind it to do so. There is no tide of history, only us :)

The point would be to formulate constructive demands. And ask Duo to comment. I tried to suggest providing resources to unblock, unrelated to the giant data-miners. And stuff like piwik. I don't know what else could work. What do you think?


If you really want to help keep Duo free then you could subscribe to Duo Plus which helps pay for the service without adverts.


Yes, obviously.

But I am replying to the banner at the end of each exercise encouraging to disable adblockers. I am suggesting this is irresponsible at the moment, given the implications of the tracking regime in place on Duolingo.


On that note, I've been meaning to point out that there's a connection to Facebook running while doing lessons on the Android app. Two more pop up during the ad at the end. I'd been thinking it was Google providing the ads, but now I'm guessing it's Facebook. Then again, there's a googleusercontent connection too, so maybe it's both?

And while I'm in here, looks like there's an unencrypted connection to Quantserve (tracker), and a few others I can't yet identify. Hm.


Privacy Badger? Block whatever you don't like.

But even if you use a VPN, adblocker and other privacy software, it doesn't mean you cannot be tracked anymore. I'm sure Google can still easily track you despite most of those tools. Having no privacy on the internet or not being certain of having full privacy on the internet is something you'll simply have to learn to accept.

And if you're already scared of Duolingo's site, I hope that you do not own a smartphone :P.


Well, sure.

But the point precisely here is that this is to be accomodated to supporting Duolingo through ads. Ads that do not come from places any privacy software would block.

Oh and btw: I do not intend to "accept" anything I do not like ;)

On a general note, I find it interesting how much resigned, passive acceptance is the first reaction to such discussions. Aquienscence is almost demanded by several commentators - well internalised anyway. I wonder why that is...

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