There's a common saying that apparently originated from even before the first days of the internet that goes something like this - "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product".
Online services need some form of revenue to stay afloat. How does OzBargain do it? I found a post in 2013 that asked this very question.
Yep, Google Ads + Affiliate links for non-logged in users.
Yes it's based on volume. On an average day maybe 5-6 out of every 1,000 visitors click on ads, so to keep OzBargain alive we need to make sure it's popular enough. To keep it popular we need to make sure that it's useful and don't piss off too many people :)
As of server costs, I got many ways to save money there. Maybe I will find sometime to discuss and share that with the community.
A lot can change in 7 years. I would be interested to hear what's changed since that thread and if scotty ever did share how he saves on server costs. I'm not surprised at all with these responses.
What, in my opinion, is actually noteworthy in there?
Third party cookies
Nothing unexpected given the business model I found earlier. There are some disclaimers that some third party cookies will be used. The section also goes on about Google's involvement.
Use of information
Here is the key line I looked for:
Under no circumstances will any of your personal information be passed on or sold to any third party, at any time.
Great! That's exactly what I wanted to see.
What actually goes on in the background?
Everything so far seems reasonable to me. Even though privacy policies are supposed to be a legal document, companies can lie.
A tool I like to run to get a general idea of how intrusive a website is is The Markup's Blacklight (clicking this link will run their tool against OzBargain). For anyone interested, I suggest actually going to the tool and reading what it has to say. What do the results look like? Here it is slightly dumbed down:
22 Ad trackers found on this site. This is more than the average of seven that we found on popular sites.
51 Third-party cookies were found. This is more than the average of three that we found on popular sites.
This website loads trackers on your computer that are designed to evade third-party cookie blockers.
This site allows Google Analytics to follow you across the internet.
😱 <—- This is how I would react if I didn't know better.
What do I know?
The above analysis would be from the perspective of a user who isn't logged in. Registered users can turn off ads. Whether or not the tracking is actually less aggressive for a logged in user, I have no idea. This is quite irrelevant to me since I browse OzBargain without logging in more than when I am logged in.
The thread was originally intended to commend the OzBargain team in how they make it reasonably easy for privacy-minded people to opt out of aggressive web tracking. Hopefully that's the way it was always intended. I then decided to go down the rabbit hole of sharing every other thought I've had about OzBargain's interactions with a user's privacy. I honestly wish the rest of the internet was the same way.