SPUG: Web Bugs

Wallendahl, Michael/SEA mwallend at ch2m.com
Fri Aug 17 18:51:52 CDT 2001

I'm just curious what everyone's opinion is about "web bugs" -- 1x1
transparent gifs that some companies embed in their web pages and HTML
e-mails.  An overview article can be found here:

Some people say that these gif's are just used to track how popular a web
site is--if that's the case, why would they include  identifying information
in the web bug URL?  I was pretty indifferent about the practice until I
realized that some junk mail I got from my student loan company, SallieMae,
included a little snippet of html code like this

<IMG SRC="http://salliemae.sfi0.com/image.cgi/slm008-c/myName@myDomain.com">

This means that they now know the exact second that I read my e-mail and
they also know if I forward this specific message onto someone else (because
the "hit" in the log file will come from a different source IP address but
contain the same e-mail address tag).  It's like a Read Receipt that I can't
get around.  And since it went to my hotmail account, I can't force it to
"plain text" format before I read it to get around this problem.

I feel like writing a Perl script to "spam" the salliemae.sfi0.com web
server back with random e-mail addresses, but that wouldn't solve anything
(besides, it would be easy to filter out my "spam" from their logs because
all the hits would be from the same address).

Anyway, just wondering what you all think.  Do you use these "bugs" in your
own web projects?


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