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Web Spies - Tracking & Targeted Advertising

Web Sites & Browsers Spy On You, Then Get Others To Advertise at You

This is http://www.berklix.com/~jhs/adverts/

Purpose (Of page, not advertising)

  • Inform people may be unwilling targets of unwanted personally directed advertising; + How it's done, Who does it, How to evade/ block it etc.
  • Disclaimer: Berklix has never had advertised, or been involved, except that Berklix for years has innocently had links (as has much of the net) to some sites that Are involved. Berklix is not advertising. Berklix does not sell advertising. Berklix does not to buy advertising. Berklix does not promote or co-ordinate advertising between buyers & sellers.

Some sites that have carried personally directed advertising:

Some sites that have tracked & given info to 3rd parties to do directly individually targeted advertising:

  • www.conrad.de (Electronics)

  • PS I happened to take notes about Conrad affiliate programme shortly before this, on 28 Dec 2013:
    German site: 5 % Provision auf den netto Bestellwert ... Leichtes Einbinden der Werbemittel auf Ihrer Ihnen vermittelten Bestellungen
    They want date of birth! Even for a company! (Normal German habit: all ask for person's date of birth, none take responsibility for raising risk of ID theft).

    English site: "Joining our affiliate program is free, simple and fast. We've teamed up with Webgains and Affiliate Window to take the hassle out of affiliate schemes, meaning all you have to do is select the links to Conrad that you feel would work on your website. If these links refer sales to our website then you will be automatically paid a pre-agreed commission."

    It seems both Conrad's .de & .uk use 2 affiliate nets, but different ones. .de use these (I've found English page equivalents): zanox.com/gb/ & affili.net/uk/

  • www.reifen.com Tyre Vendor
  • www.atu.de Tyre Vendor

Some sites that co-ordinate it:

Google
(See their name on the 3rd advert) The firm that also harvest your search engine accesses. Why not choose one from a list of different search engine providers, & help reduce their monopoly ? (Note just switching search engine is not sufficient to protect you. Google's tentacles extend further. They also embed into other commercial companies. They also embedded into non commercial site http://www.freebsd.org After the FreeBSD project debated & accepted their terms (more search statistics))
BBC 17 April 2014: "chief executive of Axel Springer, says his company is afraid of Google"

How It's Done

Using information vendors at other sites have gleaned from browsers (even when one doesn't login, or purchase from vendor's web

Example: The special 12 V 17 Ah lead gell batteries advertised at Toytown { top of 2014_04_14_2005_front_page_ad.jpg & base of 2014_04_11_1339_frame.jpg } & top of meteoblue.com.jpg are not random popular batteries to advertise at a general public; but were targeted at me after I browsed those 2 minority interest batteries at Conrad.de (& 2nd Conrad URL) Conrad must have logged my browsing & fed to Toytown's operators probably via a marketing intermediary. (Which 3rd advert here declares to be Google, I confirmed it by clicking around on another minority product or 2 & saw them too advertised soon after on Toytown Other adverts on 3rd party pages will also include generic advertising, not individually targeted.

If you had browsed a more private product perhaps from another vendor, you might not want it there when someone glanced at your screen, while you were browsing a supposedly innocuous advertiser. In the cases of adverts seen on Toytown & Meteoblue I had not logged in when I got them. Neither do I have a web account with Conrad.

Consider what Toytown or similar social sites could do now or later in reverse, with extra personal information members are invited to give in their personal profile, + browsing & posting history: who it might be sold to, exchanged with, or lost to on site intrusion. Scenarios would be yet worse on USA based sites where EU data privacy laws ignored, & the NSA syphon off masses of data.

How to block it

  • Targeted advertising is [most easily] achieved by vendor sites tracking browsers, then passing info to advertiser sites.
  • Cookies: Best to set cookies to be deleted at least at end of each browser session); But even if you do, will you terminate & restart browser between browsing a vendor & then browsing next site such as Toytown ?
  • [Some of] what your browser automatically provides to all sites can be seen here: http://www.berklix.net/cgi-bin/printenv Inc. browser type & OS, & languages preferred & REMOTE_ADDR & REMOTE_HOST= Your current connection. (So bad sites will also know where to live probe).
  • Java - a liability, but hard to turn off as lots of sites want it.
  • There may also be potential for unauthorised cookie raiding by rogue java scripts, if cookies are not encrypted, but consideration of that is too complex for here.)
  • Targeted advertising will slow pages, optionally necessitating reference to another remote site, &/or database, to build pages to advertise individually.
  • Here's an anonymous web proxy project to help defend from spying web sites: http://www.torproject.org
  • Here's a little Unix script (for BSD & Linux & other fFree OS's ) to toss all previous Firefox accumulated spy data & start afresh. OK, it wont work for other browsers.
  • If you'r using Microsoft, you'll have to fumble around with the annoyingly ever moving Firefox preferences (which don't offer enough control anyway). Or if you'r an MS proficient user, make an equivalent .BAT script out of my shell script, & hook it to the window manager. You'll need to know more than just clicking for that ;-).

Examples of individually targeted advertising

(On a seperate page, else as wide bit images, they would have forced all text on this page to have been viewed on a wide screen).

Better Prices Perhaps By Cleverly Deciding When To Deliberately Incur Cookies & When NOT To Delete Them ?

Just a suspicion so far ...
When browsing prior to purchase, you may want to browse some competition sites before going to your preferred vendor; & _not_ purging cookies in between & Not disconnecting & starting a new D-DNS session & Not telling browser to flush cookies & Not using my Unix script in between.
Why: Maybe your preferred vendor sniffs where cookies are stored & if it sees cookies from a competitor vendor, it may offer you better prices ? I haven't proved it yet, but I think I may have seen it (shopping for car tyres). I presume most cookies from different vendors are encrypted so competitive vendors can't easiy read each others cookies, but maybe just knowing the sort of name a competitor uses to store their cookies, & testing for existence, along with a recent time stamp on cookie file, is sufficient for a vendor to decide "This customer is market aware, offer a better price to compete harder!".
Sometime I'll test &/or discuss viability

Other Spies

As this page is co-titled "Web Spies" its also worth remembering USA NSA are spieing on everyone, & eg the Germans dont trust Britain's GCHQ either, (Ref Merkel mobile, & see 2014 EU election posters etc). 2014-05 the USA listed 5 Chinese inc 2 Chinese PLA members for spieing. So assume companies And governments are probably trying to spie on you & each other.

Spy Blocking

Https & torproject.org browser may protect you from NSA etc, but rather harder to protect from targeted advertising.

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