Tracking You Across the Internet

by DanB

It’s pervasive. Everywhere you look companies and websites are trying to gather more and more data on you. I want to discuss this issue and I’ll point you to a tool to help.

I recently read an article about some of the new Facebook attempts at data gathering.
The article talked about attempts to match offline purchases from online ad displays.

From a technical standpoint these attempts are interesting. But from a privacy point of view not so interesting. Even a bit worrisome. One of the real issues is you never know what is being gathered. Even if you do know you have no way of knowing what dots are being connected behind the scenes. Then there is the question of what dots will be connected down the road.

Over at the blog I tell you about a tool you can install on your web browser to minimize the tracking Facebook and other companies use to monitor your movements. It is a free tool and in my tests has worked quite well. If you are not interested in some technical talk just click the link and get the tool. If you want some more technical talk keep reading after the link.

Click here to find out about the free software

For several years a big portion of my job was to analyze the data generated by visits to websites. In particular we were interested in minimizing the guesswork that visitors had to go through to find what they were looking for. This was pre-Google and a private website.  The website had around 22,000 pages and on average received 9,000,000 requests for pages each month. That was a lot of data to crunch. And this was before there were tools to crunch it for you. I wrote a few of my own just to save some time. Today the tools can show you all sort information about your online activity.

How does this cross tracking work exactly? Let us assume you have a Facebook account. When you visit Facebook puts some cookies on your computer. Now anytime you visit a site that is tied in to Facebook that cookie is noted and updated. Even if the site you are visiting is not part of Facebook. Most of the time that you see the Facebook logo on a page and when you see Facebook being used for comments that tracking is taking place. Is someone linking to a picture on Facebook? That can do it too. The data gathering is pervasive.

The big question is this. Are companies using your data and habits to track you specifically? At a certain level yes. But on a bigger scale they are looking for overall trends they can use across broad groups to sell more products or influence opinions.

On an individual level the data will be used to display advertisements closer to your interests. I’m not opposed to this so much in concept. It really is no different than a sales clerk paying attention to your likes and dislikes then suggesting items you may like. It saves you time and can be enjoyable. It can also be expensive at times! But to have it automated makes me uneasy.

How do you feel about all this? Let us know in the comments below.

Hope you find the software useful. I have. Now if I can the same thing for my phone it will really be nice.

It has been a short while but things have been very busy.
More about that soon. Today I want to share a concern and a
fix for that concern. The email looks long but if you are in
a hurry you will only need to read the first few paragraphs.
You can come back for the rest later. Thanks for reading – I
really appreciate it.

It’s pervasive. Everywhere you look companies and websites
are trying to gather more and more data on you. I want to
discuss this issue and I’ll point you to a tool to help.

I recently read an article about some of the new Facebook
attempts at data gathering. The article talked about
attempts to match offline purchases from online ad displays.

From a technical standpoint these attempys are interesting.
But from a privacy point of view not so interesting. Even a
bit worrisome. One of the real issues is you never know what
is being gathered. Even if you do know you have no way of
knowing what dots are being connected behind the scenes.
Then there is the question of what dots will be connected
down the road.

Over at the blog I tell you about a tool you can install on
your web browser to minimize the tracking Facebook and other
companies use to monitor your movements. It is a free tool
and in my tests has worked quite well. If you are not
interested in some technical talk just click the link and
get the tool. If you want some more technical talk keep
reading after the link.

Click here to got to the blog and checkout the free software

For several years a big portion of my job was to analyze the
data generated by visits to websites. In particular we were
interested in minimizing the guesswork that visitors had to
go through to find what they were looking for. This was pre-
Google and a private website.  The website had around 22,000
pages and on average received 9,000,000 requests for pages
each month. That was a lot of data to crunch. And this was
before there were tools to crunch it for you. I wrote a few
of my own just to save some time. Today the tools can show
you all sort information about your online activity.

How does this cross tracking work exactly? Let us assume you
have a Facebook account. When you visit Facebook puts some
cookies on your computer. Now anytime you visit a site that
is tied in to Facebook that cookie is noted and updated.
Even if the site you are visiting is not part of Facebook.
Most of the time that you see the Facebook logo on a page
and when you see Facebook being used for comments that
tracking is taking place. Is someone linking to a picture on
Facebook? That can do it too. The data gathering is
pervasive.

The big question is this. Are companies using your data and
habits to track you specifically? At a certain level yes.
But on a bigger scale they are looking for overall trends
they can use across broad groups to sell more products or
influence opinions.

On an individual level the data will be used to display
advertisements closer to your interests. I’m not opposed to
this so much in concept. It really is no different than a
sales clerk paying attention to your likes and dislikes then
suggesting items you may like. It saves you time and can be
enjoyable. It can also be expensive at times! But to have it
automated makes me uneasy.

How do you feel about all this? Click over to the blog and
let us all know:

http://www.tnpcnewsletter.com/blog/

While you are there check out the software I link to help
reduce the amount of tracking when you surf the Internet.

In the interest of full disclosure I should also point out
that I am using tracking in this newsletter and on the
website. The links in these emails go through our service
provider. They keep a running count of how many times each
link is clicked. That is all.

At the website we collect statistics on various things but
primarily of traffic patterns and visitor behavior. What
visitors looked at, when was it looked at, what did they
look at next, how long was it looked it, etc. This isn’t an
exact science and again we look for trends. It does not
identify you personally it just tells me the number of times
a particular item was viewed.

Hope you find the software useful. I have. Now if I can the
same thing for my phone it will really be nice.

  • Beachkidken

    I took a chance on installing your free software tracker/blocker into my Firefox but was not sure if it would work since I am using a Linux OS, namely Ubuntu 12.04.1.  Your software works!  I took a run to http://www.tmz.com and was amazed at how many trackers were trying to track me.  Thanks.  You’re doing us a great service.

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