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I hate to think that somebody's tracking me, but really!

 
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 17876
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 12:59 pm    Post subject: I hate to think that somebody's tracking me, but really! Reply with quote

A few minutes ago I was reading Google News.

An item of current US political interest caught my eye, so I clicked the link.

That redirected me to an article in the Christian Science Monitor.

No surprise there -- I don't know why, but a lot of CSM articles get placed high in the Google rankings.

What was surprising was the advertisement at the top of the CSM page:
"Edmund Optics, $10 OFF Your Next $100 Online Order Finite Conjugate Objectives"



Now there's a holiday offer I'll bet they don't present to random visitors! Shocked Laughing

--Rik
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Craig Gerard



Joined: 01 May 2010
Posts: 2877
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rik,

Interesting observation.

Here's the offer I received Sad



Craig
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DQE



Joined: 08 Jul 2008
Posts: 1653
Location: near Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2010 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been using a fake zip code for my various web and iPad apps registration for some time, trying to maintain some sense of personal privacy.

Recently, I was idly surfing the net and found my partner's name listed with this same fake zip code I've been using. She doesn't use this tactic. <edit: changed sentence to make it a bit clearer>

My best guess is that some combination of Apple iPod app tracking (e.g., Google maps has the ability to figure out where you're searching from, as do many others) and the many tracking systems that are present on the internet these days. My partner and I both have iPods and iPads, and she mostly uses the same apps as I do, most of which do tracking. <edited to provide more detail>

The Wall Street Journal has run an extensive series of articles explaining how this technology works. I was shocked to read how well they can narrow down one's identity by just collecting a few dozen tidbits about a person, including for example one's personal typing pattern.

Some links:

http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2010/08/04/the-information-that-is-needed-to-identify-you-33-bits/

http://blogs.wsj.com/public/page/what-they-know-digital-privacy.html
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Last edited by DQE on Sat Dec 25, 2010 8:44 am; edited 1 time in total
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rjlittlefield
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Joined: 01 Aug 2006
Posts: 17876
Location: Richland, Washington State, USA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 2:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I sent one of my colleagues a link to this post.

He or she replied:
Quote:
Thank you for the link. A great example of how accurately advertising networks can track online browsing history without even installing any applications on the client's machine.

I am not sure if you have seen the articles, but ad networks are now able to track users even if they have cookies disabled (both standard browser and flash based). The new methods they are using is based on fingerprint analysis generated by reading/cross referencing the users IP (which alone may not accomplish much as many are behind a NAT), along with the browser's user_agent header string and installed plugins and versions.

This allows websites to uniquely and entirely passively fingerprint users without storing even a bit of data in the browser, yet yields almost the same level of effectiveness as standard cookies. The unfortunate truth about this method is that it is (at the moment) almost entirely impossible to circumvent, because any attempt by any small group of users to change their user_agent strings or plugin versions to random/different values will in itself make that user unique.

Times certainly have gotten quite interesting and privacy is almost a lost cause these days.

Nonetheless, I have done my best to preserve the anonymity of my colleague, who did not even ask to remain so.

--Rik
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Mitch640



Joined: 15 Aug 2010
Posts: 2137

PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 3:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There have been applications out for years that can tell where you live from your IP address. The code is beyond me, but it can even be added to a GIF image file, as those in a footer on a forum. I have seen a few here and there in forums that will generate and print your IP address and print out a short message like, "Welcome from La Crosse, your IP address is 209.176.blah.blah".

http://whatismyipaddress.com/ip-lookup

That's when I gave up on trying to stay private online. Smile


Last edited by Mitch640 on Sat Dec 25, 2010 9:11 am; edited 1 time in total
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DQE



Joined: 08 Jul 2008
Posts: 1653
Location: near Portland, Maine, USA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2010 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

After reading an article about an well-known, internet-based, pseudo-detective company that will sell info about anyone to anyone, I paid a few dollars for their basic info package about myself. I was shocked to find out what they knew, and have no idea where they could have gotten the info, presumably available for everyone.

They knew my last job title and salary (I retired a few years ago), where I had lived recently, the price of my various houses, my childrens' names, where they had lived, what their salary and jobs were, and on and on. For a few dollars more, they would provide much more depth, including court-related records and so forth.

Here's a link to this company, presumably one of many:

http://www.intelius.com

I've read that it's become all but impossible to get mistaken information about a person corrected or withdrawn. There are even companies that specialized in cleaning up mistaken information. I've also read that employers routinely do various internet checks about prospective employees, now considered a matter of due diligence. Thus, internet-based tracking info is more than just an advertising-related curiosity.

I'm sure the law enforcement agencies, both open and secret, use these technologies and more. I read some time ago that the US security agencies scan all internet traffic for their purposes. Assuming this memory is correct, that would take one heck of a computer farm.

I understand that Europe has various privacy and database-related laws to protect their citizens. My understanding is that the USA has almost none.

Perhaps we need to restrict our posting of mating bugs! After all, who wants to be listed in these databases as some sort of sex offender!! (insert faint attempt to smile here)

------------------
There is an add-on for Firefox that stops most of the tracking systems. It's called "Ghostery". You have to turn it on and then for the first few days manually ask it to block the new trackers on web pages. Once this is done, it seems to work OK. I do have to turn it off to access an occasional web page so I am guessing it might have some false alarms.
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SONYNUT



Joined: 22 Jan 2011
Posts: 627
Location: Minnesota USA

PostPosted: Mon Jan 24, 2011 11:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

All and every credit reporting operation is to blame......they will sell your soul if they could..
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Blame



Joined: 14 May 2010
Posts: 342

PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 3:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

SONYNUT wrote:
All and every credit reporting operation is to blame......they will sell your soul if they could..


Well that is me warned. Never put your soul into a computer.
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