DeRe, the Redirection Buster

Answering the question when is a link not just a link?

In my career, I’ve done a fair bit of work in the marketing and consumer loyalty spaces. I’ve seen how even 30 years ago, marketers could capture information on consumer behaviour and use that both to predict the sort of offers they might respond to (targeted advertising) and to derive deeply personal insights into individuals.

I’ve responded to this information gathering in many ways, attempting to thwart the data collection that lets marketers create such a profile. When it comes to links on the web, this involves opening many links in private browsing windows and removing tracking variables from links. Of all the trackers, Google Analytics is probably the most common. Whenever you see something like “utm_campaign=” in a link, that’s sending data to Google so marketers can know how their efforts are performing. In order to keep all that information hidden, marketers use link shorteners, so that a link like gets redirected to a link that contains tracking variables, and then to the actual site. Facebook takes this even further, with the “fbclid” variable they can track every individual link on their entire platform.

Mucking with these links manually is tedious or impossible. I’ve responded to this by creating DeRe, a de-redirection tool at Drop a link into DeRe and it will transit the redirections looking for a variety of common tracking variables and either removing them entirely or replacing the values with bogus data (a combination of preset and random values, just to make blocking the spurious data more difficult). In this way a link with a value of utm_source=twitter can wind up being recorded as utm_source=springwater.