SPUG: Web Bugs
whitneyt at agcs.com
Mon Aug 20 20:34:41 CDT 2001
Sites can gather the same information through cgi etc, and these sites could
forward the information to the interested companies instead of embedding a bug in
their html. So the bug just makes it easier, but would it still be an issue if
sites did that instead?
Ken McGlothlen wrote:
> Doug Beaver <doug at beaver.net> writes:
> | What is it about transparent gifs (whether they are static or generated by a
> | cgi) that makes it easier to log and retrieve page view data? I am trying to
> | see the benefit, but I can't. Can you explain a little more?
> Specifically, when you visit a site (say, cnn.com), they have the option of
> dropping in a webbug (or set of them) from various other firms. The cnn.com
> page might consist of:
> The HTML document
> An IBM ad
> A Compaq ad
> A doubleclick.com webbug
> The doubleclick.com webbug almost always has a way of encoding more information
> in the URL, so now doubleclick.com knows that you saw the article, which ads
> you saw, and when you saw it. They also work with cnn.com to discover the
> referring URL.
> Alone, this is no big deal, but you can see how, with enough webbugs on enough
> sites (and it doesn't take a majority of them), doubleclick.com can come up
> with a really good profile of individual users, and come up with more effective
> (read "obnoxious") advertising tactics.
> Even worse is emails---it's like a read-receipt that mailreaders like Outlook
> won't let you block. This is one of the primary reasons why I don't use a
> graphical mailreader.
> | The thing that upsets me about web bugs is that you can't turn them off. At
> | least you can turn off cookies. Even if you're using a proxy which strips
> | your identifying headers, they can still track you since the tracking info is
> | encoded in the image name.
> Well, there are ways. On the Macintosh, for example, a popular web-browser
> named OmniWeb allows you to do URL blocking (with regular expressions, no
> less), and that one ability (along with superior cookie management) has made it
> my favorite browser. Mozilla is also going to permit you to block images from
> sites, whenever it becomes ready for prime-time. Your only other avenues are
> HTML proxies like junkbuster, which block image requests from sites you select.
> | You might be able to test for the existence of web bugs by using a proxy
> | and doing a HEAD request on each "image" referred to by <img> tags.
> Actually, if you can just get a list of IMG URLs out of the page efficiently,
> they're pretty easy to spot. OmniWeb has the "Get Info" command; it will list
> all the resources a page attempts to load. But it does take a pair of eyeballs
> to distinguish ads and webbugs from legitimate spacers and the like.
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