Update: A comment from Michael Johnston reports that it might be disabled by doing the following:
For what it’s worth, you can allegedly disable it by visiting http://fastesttube.kwizzu.com/#congratulations and clicking “Disable Adlesse Lite.” Appears to do the trick.
FastestTube, a Chrome extension to download YouTube videos, now uses a service called “Adlesse Lite” which is supposed to exchange ads with useful content and widgets, such as weather and Twitter feeds. But, Adlesse appears to be a statistics tracker itself. FastestTube is a fantastic extension (the best YouTube downloader yet), but this partnership has made me concerned and curious.
It has a login page at
http://stat.adlesse.com/dashboard, and subpages for the different widgets. There is no mention of this page publicly visible. This could be for internal use by the company, but why is there a need to track?
Adlesse has little contact information (there is an e-mail form, but I like to have addresses and names), and is also “patent pending” which is not a good sign to me (no bearing on the extension, I’m just inherently suspicious of patents). They are very protective of their “algorithm”. They have a social media presence on Twitter, but their feed is empty.
The Adlesse extension, and the FastestTube extension with Adlesse Lite, insert custom HTML. The custom-injected HTML is on-par with other extensions that customize sites. This isn’t surprising, and is the desired behavior. The issue is that I have seen tracker images (one-pixel GIFs) inserted as well, which made me suspicious. Finding these is how I discovered the above tracking URL.
It could be that this tracking is to help retain the preferences set on the Personal settings page (which is online and not part of the extension — meaning it saves a cookie, probably). While this is an odd configuration, it would seem this was done because the service is cross-browser. Internet Explorer 9 doesn’t appear to have a way to edit extension options if the extension doesn’t provide a GUI element, so this is a way to address that.
I do not know why this service would need any of this information. What does this company do? I wonder if this is boilerplate EULA or if this is specific to Adlesse. I do not know how they would obtain this information, either, unless it later becomes a service that is charged for, or they read cookies from other sites. How else is it that I can get the “Latest tweets from [my] friends” if there is no way to inform Adlesse of my details?
Curiously, none of these three extensions are on the official Chrome Webstore.
I have not found one, neither on the site of Adlesse nor of Adlesse Lite. Both sites now have privacy policies (Adlesse and AdlesseLite), and Adlesse has an e-mail feedback address. Both privacy policies are currently thus:
Adlesse uses a number of subsystems on our various sub-domains. For instance, stat.adlesse.com is a statistics system we use to gather important data that is used to optimize our operations. We assure you that all the hits on stat.adlesse.com are anonymous. Cookies are used there only to count the number of the unique users.
The subdomains lite.adlesse.com and dispatch.lite.adlesse.com are used for the internal system organization, we anonymously collect statistics of clicks on the elements of our widgets in order to make the widgets more convenient for you. Statistics is collected anonymously and can not be tracked to an individual user.
We respect and protect your privacy.
I appreciate their effort to disambiguate some misunderstandings on my part.
Should you not want these extensions, they seem gracefully easy to remove. When bundled with FastestTube, you can uninstall the extension or disable the Adlesse part of it by going to a site that has replacement content by Adlesse (such as a Google search page), clicking “AdlesseLite is on” and choosing your options from there. The installer version can be uninstalled. Removing per-browser BHOs/extensions might prove to be a bit more difficult but all modern browsers make this process pretty painless via some sort of extension manager interface.