On Privacy: Lolli, AdBlockers, And You


On Privacy: Lolli, AdBlockers, And You

TLDR: Do not use AdBlockers with Lolli. If you do, you may not get your bitcoin back!

A Note About Privacy

Privacy is good. Lolli is a privacy-focused company. We take great care in protecting our shoppers' personally identifiable information. (In a future blog post I will be going into great detail about how we do just that.) We do not compile or sell said info, and we never will. I, personally, have a history of being a security and privacy geek (one of my previous startups was a privacy-oriented end-to-end encrypted photo sharing app in an era not quite as focused on privacy as today), so it is of the utmost importance to me that we build Lolli on the level such that someone like me would use it, and I use Lolli almost daily. Ultimately, we don't want to know who you are, where you're browsing, or what you're buying. All we really care about is giving you bitcoin for shopping online.

Then There's Tracking

The internet is full of invasive tracking cookies and pixels and such. We are all familiar with the annoying ads that appear on clickbait slideshows of "The Top 33 Funny Office Fails!" Recently bought a toaster? You might see an ad for toast, for example. Your retail data is used by ad networks to compile a profile of your shopping preferences in the hopes that by presenting you with highly personalized ads, you will find (and purchase) products or services that you would suit you the most. Why, after all, if you recently bought a toaster, would you want to see an ad for dog food?

The downside to this is the lack of personal privacy. You have no reason to blindly trust anyone with your browsing or retail data because if exposed, leaked, or simply abused internally, it could be used for all sorts of nefarious purposes by the likes of scam artists, personal rivals, snoopy governments, disapproving in-laws, etc. It really shouldn't be anyone's business, yet after decades of online shopping, it's literally someone's business. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers' May 2019 Internet Advertising Revenue Report, digital ad revenues surpassed $100 billion in 2018, claiming over 39% of all ad revenues across all media! And it's only going to get bigger. Why? Because targeted internet advertising works, and it works like no other medium that came before it. It's convenient; it's (mostly) accurate; it's efficient; and it's cost-effective. However, it's also somewhat invasive (read: "creepy.") Sure, we would all like both convenience and privacy, but unfortunately, there are always tradeoffs. So mote it be.

How Lolli Tracking Works

Lolli offers you the convenience of earning bitcoin simply for shopping online. To do that, we have to be able to connect an order from one of our merchant partners back to your Lolli account. To do that we need a minimal amount of tracking. On Lolli's end this takes the form of an anonymous token we share with our merchant (i.e. the merchant cannot connect this token back to your identity on Lolli). This token is stored server-side with Lolli and not in a cookie or in any other client-side storage. When you activate a spree and our merchant receives the token, they may choose one of a number of ways to store it. One common example might be as a persistent cookie. This cookie (or other tracking mechanism) is in place at least until checkout, at which point the merchant makes sure to include the Lolli token with the rest of your order data. The merchant processes the order and then submits the order total, reward amount, and Lolli token back to Lolli, where Lolli can then associate the reward with your Lolli account. Boom, you get your bitcoin!

Why AdBlockers Sometimes Prevent Your Rewards

Since it's up to each individual merchant as to how they persist Lolli's anonymous token, this may make some merchants vulnerable to having their tracking method blocked by AdBlockers, effectively nuking the Lolli token. Then at checkout, the merchant no longer has a Lolli token to submit back to Lolli. In the end, there is no way to associate your purchase with your Lolli account and thus no way to get your reward.

So What Does Lolli Recommend?

Turn off AdBlockers when you are using Lolli. It's that simple. We can't pay you your bitcoin unless we can connect all the dots, and AdBlockers nuke some of those dots. If you don't want to turn off AdBlockers in your main browser, we recommend using Lolli in a secondary browser, one which you feel comfortable using for the sole purpose of shopping with Lolli. (Currently, we support Firefox, Chrome, and Edge with more to come.) If you don't want to do that and you happen to be an avid Chrome user, we recommend creating a separate profile in Chrome for your Lolli shopping, and make sure that profile does not have AdBlockers enabled.

A Note About Brave

Brave is a popular privacy-oriented browser based on Chrome. We currently do not support Brave simply because it has so much anti-tracking built in that we have not been able to test it thoroughly for enough merchants to be confident that your purchase will always result in a reward. Yes, you can install any Chrome extension on Brave, and Lolli will install, but without the tracking portion we cannot guarantee your bitcoin will be associated with your Lolli account. Some users have had a positive experience simply by disabling AdBlockers in Brave, which is promising, but we still cannot recommend it until we complete our own testing. In short it's high on privacy and low on convenience, which isn't a bad thing if you're doing anything other than shopping with Lolli.

The (Private) Road Ahead

One of Lolli's tenets of product development is this: "How little information do we need from you to provide a specific feature?" Then, we revisit that feature and ask: "Ok, how can we do this with even less info?" If possible, we keep paring down the data we need from you. We are finally starting to see the industry move toward reducing massive data retention, a move of which we are proud to be at the forefront. Keep an eye out for an upcoming feature release that we are pretty pumped about, specifically geared to keep your browsing and shopping even more private with Lolli.

Matt Senter

Matt Senter

This is Matt. Matt is CTO and Co-Founder of Lolli, Inc. He thinks bitcoin is the future. He thinks YOU should think bitcoin is the future. Twitter: @MattSenter