"AOL can track consumers. . . it sells that feature to advertisers"; "DoubleClick can keep a file on the millions of users of the hundreds of websites in its network. . . The cookie can be accessed electronically through. . . ad banners. . . even if you never click on the ad."

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

From the March 2000 edition of Consumer Reports.

If you buy airline tickets online at a site like www.travelocity.com, you must provide your name, address and telephone number. Travelocity's privacy policy says that it shares your information with airlines and the like, but that it won't sell your data to anyone else.

But Travelocity doesn't make it clear that it reports each visit you make to an ad network called DoubleClick. Say you surf from www.travelocity.com to www.healthcentral.com to read about hypertension. DoubleClick will know what sites you visited and maybe even what you did there.

DoubleClick can keep a file on the millions of users of the hundreds of websites in its network by placing a "cookie"--a unique identifier--on the hard drive of each user's computer. The cookie can be accessed electronically through the ad banners it places on its client's websites--even if you never click on the ad.

DoubleClick is one of several companies snooping this way. Matchlogic, an ad network, has placed invisible images called "transparent GIFs" on consumer sites that send information to Matchlogic about who visited that site. These could be used to build an online profile.

Marketers say they aren't invading consumers' privacy because ad banners don't gather personally identifiable information. The leading online ad networks recently formed the Network Advertising Initiative to educate consumers about company practices. Members say they will soon let people opt out of online profiling. Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission is considering whether to let the industry continue to regulate itself. Consider that:

*Information may not be personally identifiable now, but it could be paired with names and addresses obtained elsewhere.

*Some sites with DoubleClick banners send surprising personal information to DoubleClick's computers. For example, the Business-research site www.edgar.online.com tells DoubleClick the stock-ticker symbols of each corporation you research.

*America Online can track consumers according to lifestyle as they move about AOL. It sells that feature to advertisers.


You can opt out of DoubleClick by altering your computer's cookie file so your habits can't be profiled. Go to www.doubleclick.net/privacy_policy/privacy.htm.

Check out the web sites of the Center for Democracy & Technology's Operation Opt-Out (http://opt-out.cdt.org), the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Guide to Privacy Tools (www.epic.org/privacy/tools/html), and Junkbusters' privacy tools and information (www.junkbusters.com).

-- Old Git (anon@spamproblems.com), February 22, 2000


Well, this is a little disgusting, but guess it should come as no surprise! Have "cookies" disabled, and our machines do not accept them. Thanks Old Git for informing us.

-- suzy (suzy@nowhere.com), February 22, 2000.

Another approach is to place the following line on your AUTOEXEC.BAT file.

del c:\windows\cookies\*.txt

-- BH (bh_silentvoice@hotmail.com), February 22, 2000.

This little app does it one better. You don't even see Double Click banners.

"0click10.zip Zeroclick 1.0: stops doubleclick profiling

Zeroclick is a small, simple, free program for users of Windows95, 98, NT and 2000 which allows you to "disconnect doubleclick from the internet" and this in turn prevents their banner ads, their cookies and their tracking of your activities. Zeroclick works by causing all referrals to doubleclick from any site to be blocked at your own computer. Zeroclick works only with the standard Microsoft winsock for dialup networking, DSL, ISDN and cable modems and does not work with other winsock programs such as AOL, Trumpet Winsock or Twinsock. If you haven't installed a nonstandard winsock or dialer, then this program will work for you. Package consists of the 0click program and this readme file. No installation required.

Special requirements: Microsoft winsock.

FREEware, freely redistributable without modification. Uploaded by the author.

Kevin McAleavey, Privacy Software Corporation http://www.nsclean.com/0click.html for support and documentation.

-- mush (discovery@shields.up), February 22, 2000.

Old Git,

I agree with your concerns, wish I could figure out a way not to participate in todays commerce and not be profiled in some way shape or manner.

Being hidden and still a contibuting member of society is slowly, but surely disappearing.

If you don't play, they don't pay, argh!!!

Argh, wish I could think of an alternative, don't see it happening, everything will eventually will be inter-connected.

Whether we like it or not.

-- Michael (michaelteever@buffalo.com), February 22, 2000.

Hey Michael, I saved this just for you........LOL

There's a PC in My Salt Shaker

by Kristen Philipkoski

3:00 a.m. 19.Feb.2000 PST

NEW YORK -- Computers are becoming such an integral part of our lives that soon we won't even notice them.

At the Invisible Computer conference at the Fashion Institute of Technology on Friday, speakers were talking about pushing the envelope further than the concept of just moving the computer from the office into the living room. They were touting bottles you open to get the weather report, watches that record every physical move you make, and fountains that recite monologues.

"I never wanted my mom to boot up a PC, or learn how to use Internet Explorer. It's irrelevant to her life," said Hiroshi Ishii, director of the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

So he created something as familiar to his mom as the bottle of soy sauce she used every day. His glass bottles announce the weather report when they're opened -- a gadget Ishii describes as a place where physical and digital space meet.

Ishii's lab has also adapted the bottles to play music. Users can act as disc jockeys controlling the instruments that are played as different bottles are opened.

Dan O'Sullivan, assistant professor at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications program, presented several of his inventions. One was the Ambigraph, a wristwatch with sensors that record your movements during the day.

At the end of the day, you can hook a serial cable to it and upload the results into your computer. The results are translated into a graph that shows the movements your body has gone through -- most of them unconscious -- during the day.

"By and large I think the computer is directed at your conscious," O'Sullivan said. He aims to instead "teach people ... to get their consciousness out of the way so they can do things.

"We need to take a fresher look at ourselves," he said. He suggested that the audience "ask a lot of your body -- challenge it."

Radia Ho, a student of O'Sullivan's, demonstrated robots she created out of found household appliances. One was a toaster oven and the other an electric blender, and both were equipped with sensors that allowed them to follow light or infrared input.

Ho described them as "robots that can walk themselves away from the box."

"Come to Mama," Ho said as she shined a flashlight at her feet and the little guys came rolling towards her.

Ho said the Tamagotchi, a virtual, digital pet, inspired her creations.

"I had such an emotional response to this digital stimuli," Ho said.

Whereas repulsion and frustration are among some of the normal human reactions to computers, Ho said she was surprised to feel affection towards the technology. She hopes to eventually direct the appliance robots in "Hamlet."

Bill Gaver, senior research fellow at the Royal College of Art, talked about approaching humans as "homo ludens" -- in other words, humans who like to play.

He and his lab have created numerous toys for grown-ups, including a birdhouse that can teach the birds outside your bedroom window to sing the songs of your choice. Gavers "Prayer Device" lets you radio- transmit your entreaties into the heavens, while the "Dream Communicator" can alert a far-away sweetheart when you achieve REM sleep, thereby allowing him or her to attempt to speak to you in your dreams.

"Pleasure can be functional," Gaver said.

One of Ishii's students, Phil Frei, presented the Curly Bot, a dome- shaped toy that can record and play back a user's physical gestures. For example, if a child pushes the Curly Bot forward on the floor, then wiggles it backwards, the toy will repeat the motion.

"It attracts children with different learning styles," Frei said. Kids who aren't planners, he said, tend to adapt better to the Curly Bot than, say, a computer program, and still get educational value out of using it.

The inventor of the Furby, Caleb Chung, shares the story of his success and gave attendees advice on how to get their products to market.

He showed the step-by-step design sketches of the Furby from 1997, when the idea was brand new.

Chung said he and his wife were inspired by their daughter Abigail to invent the toy. They imagined a toy pet as it would appear in a child's imagination, he said.

"Start from a point of wonder," Chung encouraged the audience.

Ishii quoted the late computer scientist Mark Weiser to sum up the concept of invisible computing: "The most productive technologies are those that disappear. They wear themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it."

http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,34464,00.html? tw=wn20000222


-- Lynn Ratcliffe (mcgrew@ntr.net), February 22, 2000.

Michael, you can "opt-out" of Doubleclick's tracking gimmick. It's simple, just go to

http ://www.doubleclick.com:8080/privacy_policy/privacy.htm

It gives you the option to "opt-out" by replacing your current doubleclick cookie that has a specific user ID number, with one that ends with OPT-OUT instead of an ID number. Read the entire page, very enlightning about cookies and what doubleclick's all about.

Since got that doubleclick "opt-out" cookie, and with Netscape set to "warn me before accepting cookies", I have total control over my cookie file, which consists of only a few necessary cookies I keep for forums.

-- Chris (*#$%^@pond.com), February 22, 2000.

Thanks Lynn and Chris:

Lynn, very valid point, Chris, I'll check it out, thanks.

-- Michael (michaelteever@buffalo.com), February 22, 2000.

Thank you Old Git for this post. Also, thanks much to everyone for the input on this.

-- Dee (T1Colt556@aol.com), February 22, 2000.


That's nice, but we shouldn't need an add-on for every "spy" program that comes down the pike, and we shouldn't have to start going to web sites to NOT participate, as Chris suggested.

When ANYONE starts tracking where people go, and what they do, it just ain't right!

See this thread, that I posted last week, for more about DoubleClick, and others. Notice the second post in the thread also... <:)=

OT - Tech hypocrisy running rampant (comments on AOL, DoubleClick, Microsoft)

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), February 22, 2000.

If they want to know they will. It is not recent. It is long time. Michael is good.

-- Donthurtanyone (ifyou@care.com), February 22, 2000.

I completely agree with you Sysman. We shouldn't have to "jump through hoops" as the article says, so our privacy will not be invaded.

I recommend to everyone to click on the link Sysman gave above and read the article. Internet users must educate themselves about what's going on with the internet, so we can prevent/thwart things like this and prevent more monopolies such as AOL et al.

BTW, it's not just Doubleclick and AOL that are the vilains in this cookie business. Microsoft and Netscape are all partners in crime when it comes to cookies. I just noticed something tonight while looking into my cookie file. I usually use my desktop pc with Win95 to access the net, but now I"m on my laptop with Win98. I noticed that Win98 has a directory C:/WINDOWS/Cookies which contains a file named index.dat, and this file for me is 32kb (Win95 does not, on my pc anyway.) I can't view its contents, and I can't delete it as it's protected. I suspect it contains copies of cookies, as when I try to open the file with Notepad I can see "URLcache ver. 5.2". And when I deleted the entire content of cookies.txt and saved, the next time I restarted Netscape the cookie.txt file was right back as it was before! I tried deleting/saving again, same thing happened. (Anyone knows how I can get rid of that index.dat file?)

I then clicked on Netscape's help--->cookies to see if I could find out how to stop this, but Netscape's 4.5's help on cookies only explains how to set the preferences and adds this comment "Important: In most cases, "Accept all cookies" is the best choice." Ha! Imagine that. Every non-geek intimidated by a computer now has that choice selected as per Netscape's "important" recommendation.

-- Chris (*#$%^@pond.com), February 22, 2000.

For you, Chris... :)


-- Lynn Ratcliffe (mcgrew@ntr.net), February 23, 2000.

Hi Chris,

Sorry, can't help with Netscape. The only copy I have is on my backup, backup, old 386 with Win/3.1. You know, the machine that I hope I never need again...

But as for cookies, I've given up. More and more sites "require" them, or they make you "register" or whatever, again, every time you visit the site. And I hate to admit it, but even some of the new stuff that we're developing at work requires cookies, as part of the security system.

I got tired of answering the "cookie question". I figure, what's the worst thing that they can do. The virus problem is a much bigger concern, at least for me.

But "ideas" like DoubleClick really click me off... <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), February 23, 2000.

For Netscape Navigator users:

If you clicked "warn before accepting cookies" you still aren't home free, unless you first deleted the entire COOKIES.TXT file. Accepting a cookie is harmless. It's when a server reads the cookie that there is potential trouble. (Any cookie that was already in your COOKIES.TXT file can still be read.)

Even better: Delete your COOKIES.TXT file and create a folder named COOKIES.TXT in its place. Now the browser cannot create a cookie file at all. You can now set your browser to accept all cookies and avoid the annoyance of having to click for each warning. Since there is now no COOKIES.TXT file, cookies can't be placed, and there are no cookies for servers to read.

(For all Windows browsers) Even better, but costs money: "Atguard" blocks or permits ads and cookies on a site-by-site basis, as well as Java, Javascript and Activex. It includes a long list of pre-configured ad blockers, which you can add your own to as you discover them. (The Junkbusters proxy [free] with its own ad-blocker is even better at this, I'm told.) Also a rules-based firewall is included. For example you can use the firewall to create a rule that blocks all connections, by any application, to and from Doubleclick. (Recently Atguard was bought by Symantec and is now incorporated into Norton Internet Security.)

-- Debbie (dbspence@usa.net), February 23, 2000.

Thanks Lynn, but I'm not looking to buy a software to handle net security for me. I already have a good handle on this with the help of free sites such as Steve Gibson's. I'm a do-it-yourselfer and like to know exactly what's going on inside my pc ;-)

-- Chris (*#$%^@pond.com), February 23, 2000.

Hey Chris,

If you REALLY want to know EXACTLY what's going on inside your PC...

Then you should learn ASSEMBLY language (grin)... <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), February 23, 2000.

Sysman, I understand your annoyance with having to accept or decline cookies. But I got used to it after a week myself. I set up my browser to "warn me before accepting cookies" abd "only accept cookies that get sent back to the server". By automaticly accepting the cookies that get sent back to the server, it cuts down by half the warnings you get, and those cookies are harmless, as they only temporarily track your movement within their own site to make it easier for you (smooth surfing on that one perticular site.) No permanent cookies from those are set in your cookie file. If you say you're really ticked by this kind of behavior from the likes of Doubleclick, you should take an active stance in thwarting their effort, starting with your own surfing habits ;-)

Debbie, your solution to name a folder cookies.txt is an ingenious one, but it may not be appropriate and/or useful for everyone. For example, this forum makes good practical use of cookies (as they were originaly meant to be!) by inserting a cookie for your email/name so that you don't have to retype it each time you post. Most forums use cookies in similar ways. I'll let forums I trust (such as this one) set such cookies, but I will not let any site/forum remotely connected with MSN/AOL, or sites I visit for the first time, set a permanent cookie.

-- Chris (*#$%^@pond.com), February 23, 2000.

Sysman, I did learn the basics of Assembly way back when I learned Cobol. Forgot all about it now though ;-)

-- Chris (*#$%^@pond.com), February 23, 2000.

Cookies.txt says not to edit -- BUT I have set up an icon on my desktop that has Notepad open cookie.txt (prefixed by appropriate path) and after visiting sites that require cookies acceptance, I exit Netscape, click and delete all the lines past "do not edit". :o) Then Save. Then I reenter Netscape (which is almost instantaneous due to most of it being in cache). Minor inconvenience. I also have a .bat file I set up to delete everything else related to browsing -- history, .dat files in various internet temp folders etc. Every now and then I clean house with that, also.

-- A (A@AisA.com), February 23, 2000.


That was probably mainframe asm. PC asm is, well, the same animal, but a diffetent breed...

I luv 'em both! <:)=

-- Sysman (y2kboard@yahoo.com), February 23, 2000.


Yep. That trick was restrictive for me for the same reason - on some sites I do want cookies and/or active content. Personally I like the software that handles this on a site by site basis, but it is quite a bit of ongoing work to keep it configured - worth it for me though. (Just putting some different choices out there.)

You are correct to distinguish among different uses for cookies, some are more suspect than others. Atguard asks me a question about cookies for each new site. If I am spending time visiting a whole slew of new sites, this can get old. Hm, in that case I might actually find it less work to turn off Atguard's cookie question for the time being and just do as you do - let Netscape let me set just the within-site ones, until I figure out which sites are important to me, then set the behavior in Atguard.

The feature I enjoy most in Atguard is the ad blocking - the most bang for almost no effort! I doubt if this actually does anything to enhance my privacy, but it is nice to have web pages speeded up, not being bogged down with ads.

If you have ZoneAlarm you have surely noticed applications communicating with the mother ship in the background. Real Player does this every 30 minutes whatever it is doing, so I removed it from the systray entirely. Copernic (very useful all-in-one search engine with which you can keep a database of all your searches) is as I discovered, tightly integrated with flycast.com, another "targeted marketing" site. Once I discovered this, I set the firewall to block all such contacts. But it was pretty unnerving to notice this happening as I have been blithely using Copernic for about six months. The strength of this product is also its achilles heel. Who is to say that they are not relaying your search requests back to the flycast.com server for compilation and data warehousing? The technology is there, would they be stupid enough to risk their reputation by doing that? Not accusing them just saying I think we are doing well if we are keeping even one step ahead of all this stuff.

-- Debbie (dbspence@usa.net), February 23, 2000.


Real Player, aside from being the buggiest piece of crap I've ever seen, is a total pain in the a**. I noticed that it was communicating in the background when I went to do a free-space wipe using PGP. The wipe would hang every time I tried to run it because "some process" had altered the disk's contents, and I wasn't even on- line at the time. What the hell is Real Player doing updating my hard drive when I'm not even using it? Yes indeed, out of the system tray with that one!

-- Nathan (nospamwh@tsoever.moc), February 23, 2000.

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