Tracking the trackers

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by 0.32359279955933379, Jul 19, 2012.


    First comment :

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  2. Anonymous Member

    I also use Ghostery and while I am taking mostly on faith that it actually helps, I do enjoy seeing the list of blocked trackers come up when I navigate around the web. Pew pew!
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  3. Anonymous Member

    Web Bugs, Beacons, and Trackers

    Some examples will help to demonstrate how this code-based world is increasingly being spun around us. Firstly, we might consider the growing phenomena of what are called ‘web bugs’ (also known as ‘web beacons’); that is, computer programming code that is embedded in seemingly benign surfaces, but which is actively and covertly collecting data and information about us.[1] As Madrigal explains:

    This morning, if you opened your browser and went to, an amazing thing happened in the milliseconds between your click and when the news about North Korea and James Murdoch appeared on your screen. Data from this single visit was sent to 10 different companies, including Microsoft and Google subsidiaries, a gaggle of traffic-logging sites, and other, smaller ad firms. Nearly instantaneously, these companies can log your visit, place ads tailored for your eyes specifically, and add to the ever-growing online file about you… the list of companies that tracked my movements on the Internet in one recent 36-hour period of standard web surfing: Acerno. Adara Media. Adblade. Adbrite. ADC Onion. Adchemy. ADiFY. AdMeld. Adtech. Aggregate Knowledge. AlmondNet. Aperture. AppNexus. Atlas. Audience Science… And that's just the As. My complete list includes 105 companies, and there are dozens more than that in existence. (Madrigal, 2012).

    Web bugs are automated data collection agents that are secretly included in the web pages that we browse. Often held within a tiny one-pixel frame or image, which is therefore far too small for the naked eye to see, they execute code to secrete cookies onto your computer so that they can track user behavior, and send various information about the user back to their servers.

    Originally designed as ‘HTTP state management mechanisms’ in the early 1990s, these data storage processes were designed to enable webpages and sites to store the current collection of data about a user, or what is called ‘State’ in computer science. Known as ‘web bugs for web 1.0’ (Dobias, 2010:
    245), they were aimed at allowing website designers to implement some element of memory about a user, such as a current shopping basket, preferences, or username.

    It was a small step for companies to see the potential of monitoring user behaviour by leaving tracking information about browsing, purchasing and clicking behaviour through the use of these early ‘cookies’.[2] The ability of algorithms to track behaviour, and collect data and information about users raises important privacy implications, but it also facilitates the rise of so-called behaviour marketing and nudges (for a behaviourist approach see Eyal, 2012). These technologies have become much more sophisticated in the light of Web 2.0 technologies and developments in hardware and software: in effect, web bugs for web 2.0 (Dobias, 2010: 245).

    Fortunately, we are seeing the creation of a number of useful software projects to allow us to track the trackers: Collusion, Foxtracks and Ghostery, for example.[3] If we look at the Ghostery log for the ChartBeat company it is described as:

    Provid[ing] real-time analytics to web sites and blogs. The interface tracks visitors, load times, and referring sites on a minute-by-minute basis. This allows real-time engagement with users giving publishers an opportunity to respond to social media events as they happen. ChartBeat also supports mobile technology through APIs. (Ghostery, 2012b)

    Web bugs perform these analytics by running code run in the browser without the knowledge of the user, which if it should be observed, looks extremely complicated.[4] Here are two early web bugs (web 1.0) collected by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) (1999):
  4. Paroxetine Samurai Moderator

    I just installed Ghostery for Firefox. I am lovin' it! Thanks OP!
  5. Anonymous Member

  6. Anonymous Member

  7. Paroxetine Samurai Moderator

  8. The Wrong Guy Member

    This was posted on the Ghostery Facebook page today:



    This is a call to action - we're having a Hackathon in NYC!

    Join dozens of talented developers in a collaborative effort to develop groundbreaking tools to address one of the most pressing issues of our time: privacy in the digital age.

    Winners get their product featured at South by Southwest.

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