This website shows you how your browser spies on you

It's all fun and games until you realise the dark, creepy reality behind it.

Meryl D'Souza December 5, 2016

At first, there’s nothing special about the website The page is just a simple white screen with a big green “Button” and a scrolling background of text cataloguing your “achievements”. Those achievements are basically everything that you do on the website.

Every move you make – like moving your cursor to the left or right, clicking on the Button, right clicking – is allotted certain points and counted as an achievement that is depicted in the form of various emojis on the next page. This system makes the subject want to do as many things as possible on the website.

The whole thing starts off like a silly little game. On first entering the website, you're greeted with a male voice with a European twang sometimes encouraging and other times goading you into doing “something”. It’s all fun and games until you start reading the background text that catalogues everything you're doing.

As creepy as the website is, it’s only a mirror for what your browser is doing in the background. Even before you click on the button, the data starts rolling on the screen to show what activity the browser is recording about you. This includes the time you entered the site, how many times you clicked on the button and how fast you moved your cursor. 

The website even tries to normalise the spying with random Game Of Thrones references like “A subject has no name” and if a subject returns to the website after a hiatus or closes and reopens the website, they're greeted with a, “Welcome back”. Worryingly the voice even asks to use your webcam so that it can “see you”. 

It also judges your movements with others who have visited the site. “Subject cursor speed is faster than others,” the voice says before adding “I like this subject very much”. If the website finds that your cursor is heading towards the close button, the voice pleads for you to not go.

The website, created by VPRO Medialab in collaboration with Studio Moniker, is part of an experiment called “We Are Data” to show internet users just how far-reaching user profiling can be. The game, though creepy, is incomplete.

Nuanced tracking systems used by other websites – like Facebook – can even follow you around the web. Some particularly creative companies have tried linking all of a person’s devices to them, so that their activity can be tracked from cell phone to computer to TV.

We here at EDGAR have been quick to tell you about how Google stores everything you’ve ever done. While we may have missed out on your browser’s contribution to spying on you, this perhaps is a good time to tell you how to protect yourself from the deep dark online world.