Tag Archives: Privacy

Bye-bye Google

The Google ads are gone from this portion of the site. (At least, I think I found all the places where they were set up.) I still need to remove them from the blog on the fandom part of the site, and also from Wylie’s pages. But much as Rome wasn’t built in a day, it took a while to tear it down too.
Just to be clear, I don’t have a problem with companies making money to pay for the content they put on line. I simply don’t agree with Google’s decision to keep track of what sites individuals visit. That’s just a little too invasive and a little too easy to abuse. (I’d love to think I’m part of a larger backlash on this one, but most folks seem fairly oblivious to privacy concerns.)
One thing I do agree with though: Google should try to make their ads a bit more relevant. Looking at my fandom blog just now, Google’s displaying an ad for car insurance. That one’s not only irrelevant to the content of the blog, it’s irrelevant to anything I’ve even looked at online in the past six months.

Hiding From Google

Google has announced plans to make their ads more “interesting.”
Evidently the plan is that they’re going to track what web sites you visit over time and use that information to decide what ads you might find interesting. They’ve had this capability for years, every time you visit a site with Google ads, they set a cookie in your web browser. By serving up a cookie with the ads, they’re able to track you no matter what sites you visit. If the site includes Google ads, Google will know you visited it.
Do you find it a little creepy that Google will know your every move? They’ll let you opt out. You just have to be know that they’re watching you and also know that there’s a way to turn off the tracking. Because, you know, this is going to be completely obvious to everyone. (Believe that and I have some ocean front property in Colorado I’d like to talk to you about.)
My personal preference for dealing with this is to change my browser settings to discard cookies every time I exit from the browser. That way, none of the various trackers (Google is just the largest company to do this) knows my usage patterns outside a single session.
This is fairly easy in Firefox: Go to Tools menu, select the Options sub-menu and a dialog box will open. On the Privacy tab, change the setting for “Keep Until” to say “I close Firefox.” Note that after making this change, most web sites with logins will require you to login again for each new browser session.
Turning off cookies in Firefox.
Internet Explorer is a little different, but not too much more difficult: Go to the Tools Menu (you may need to press the [Alt] key to make the menu visible), select the Internet Options sub-menu and a dialog box will open. On the Privacy Tab, click the “Advanced” button.
Turning off cookies in Internet Explorer, part 1.
This will open a new dialog box. Click the “Override automatic cookie handling” checkbox (1). To block ad-based cookies, in the column labeled “Third-party cookies”, select “Block” (2). For greater privacy, you can also choose “Block” from the “First-party cookies” column, however this will prevent some web site logins from working. Check the “Always allow session cookies” which will allow cookies to be set for the current browsing session (3).
Turning off cookies in Internet Explorer, part 2.
Full Disclosure: You may have noticed that my site makes use of Google ads on a number of pages. I don’t care for Google’s new tracking technology, so I’ll be removing the ads completely over the next week or so. Between the privacy concerns, the lack of relevancy, and the number of blatant scams appearing in the ads, I don’t think they’re worthwhile.
Until I remove the ads, I’ve modified the settings in my Adsense account to exclude my content from the interest-based ads. In the meantime, Google’s context-based ads will continue to appear. It may be entertaining to see what sort of ads result from this post. 🙂

World's Most Dangerous Meme

I just ran across a meme that leaves me breathless. I can’t decide whether the guy who came up with it is an absolute idiot, or a criminal genius.
In case you’ve somehow missed out on this craze (in which case, I’m deeply jealous), a reasonable colloquial definition of a “meme” is that it’s a series of questions that you’re supposed to answer and either reply back to everyone on the email you received it in (plus perhaps everyone you know) or, more recently, post the answers on your blog and encourage others to copy and answer on their own blogs.
Now I’ll admit, I’ve participated in a few of these things, most recently a list of “Have you ever done these things?” but I’m generally reluctant to share much in the way of personal information. (A co-worker recently commented that she knows I take time off from time to time, but never had any idea where I was going.)
This new meme terrifies me. I don’t know whether it originated as email, or in blogs, but what you do is start off with your real name (or perhaps even your full name), and then make up your “Witness Protection Name”, “Nascar Name”, “Stripper Name” and so on. The way you create these names is through various concatenations of the name of your first pet, the name of the first street you lived on, your mother’s maiden name, and various other bits of information that are normally reserved for establishing your identity when you open a bank or credit account.
Armed with that information, a scammer should have no trouble impersonating someone who participated in the meme.
What scares me is that a member of my immediate family fell for this one, which means my identity has been compromised too.
Some days, I truly hate the Internet.