The Trusted Partners of Tumblr; a fairy tale.

Not being a Tumblr user sort of has its benefits. One is that, well, you’re not using Tumblr. The other one is you never accepted their cookie and tracking policy and can have a beautiful view into not only how ad tracking works, but a bit into dark patterns, and how companies, that really don’t want to, reluctantly comply with the GDPR.

Let’s look at the particular example of Tumblr! I’ll be honest, this is the first time since (presumably; see also: GDPR) last May that I actually dug into what they want you to accept without thinking. Luckily Tumblr is a site that you don’t really have to see (especially since, you know, the purge… would say a lot of other guys), so whenever I was presented with their full screen consent request by accidentally clicking a link I just closed the tab. But now I had some free time to read, and I went down the rabbit hole.

So let’s see. As an example, I am trying to load a site called uglybelgianhouses.tumblr.com (one I happen to remember from the old days, and that used to be pretty funny). As a non-returning visitor (incognito mode also helps), I’m greeted with this lovely landing page:

TL;DR summary: “just click the nice blue button”

This time, I won’t be clicking the nice blue button, despite a strange urge to just do so and get done with this. I actually want to understand and control where my data goes. So let me click “Manage options”:

“Ha ha, you thought you’d actually manage stuff here! Just click the blue button already. It’s nice.”

[Sigh] okay, let’s see. Some more text to read and no options to manage. I will not click the only button available, but there’s a link apparently, to finally manage options. Clickity-click, let’s see where this door leads:

“See, now you are Done. Click the button and hand us your data already!”

I’m confused Tumblr, you promised me twice by now I’d be able to manage stuff, I want to manage stuff, why don’t you let me manage stuff. But at least by now I know that Tumblr has 5 foundational partners. What’s a foundational partner? Nobody knows, maybe not even Tumblr. My guess: a foundational partner is the partner they use to put you off and click that nice blue button already. Because sure, Google, Amazon, Facebook, of course they are partners, they are partners to everyone. They can be trusted, right? Right?

But hang on… I can see a list of “other partners” simply at the click of a link? “Other partners”, that are not Foundational? Now I’m getting interested, let’s see ’em!

“There, see what you made us do? We don’t even want to give you a button anymore.”

Wow, bullseye! In case you’re interested: this list is 225 lines long. Two hundred and twenty-five “other” partners. Plus the five Foundational, of course. Foundation(al)s are important.

It’s 1298×9280 pixels… yes, 9280 pixels is the height of the list.

Here, you can finally control how you want to receive ads from these 225 partners. By the way: no way to control the 5 Foundational ones. Those will track you, unless of course you block it from your browser.

Or, like I just did, click the nice button in the top right corner. You know, the one that says “×”.

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