to think the internet is spying on me!

(44 Posts)
frogspoon Wed 07-Aug-13 09:16:57

I recently went on holiday, and ever since looking up the destination, researching it and booking it through their website, and a large proportion of adverts I seem to find on any website (including mumsnet) has been an advert for where I just went on holiday!

On getting back I started hypothetically researching what a holiday to another destination would cost. Now all the adverts that pop up are for this other destination! Just a coincidence, or is the internet actually spying on me?

I can do better than that OP, my mumsnet page keeps advertising "Phase Eight", where I love shopping! But I've never looked at/ bought from them online, soooo... how do they know? [spooky emoticon] wink

Jewelledkaleidoscope Wed 07-Aug-13 09:20:55

They have trackers. They are spying on you!

Lj8893 Wed 07-Aug-13 09:21:31

It's cookies. Basically the Internet uses cookies which means they can look at your Internet history which means they can tailor you adverts.

That's a really rubbish way of explaining it!

SummerHoliDidi Wed 07-Aug-13 09:22:35

I think the internet does spy on us. Whenever I click on an odd link on mn I then get adverts for similar stuff down the sides of a lot of websites. It's weird.

The internet is actually spying on you. Lots of websites use cookies - some of them are very innocent little things that hold your login details or your preferences between visits, but lots are actually from advertisers and are storing your browsing history from one website to another.

If you clear out all your cookies regularly, you can reduce it, but they will just put on a new one and start again. Oh and they can hold your information on a database on their own server, so it isn't always even a cookie.

Apparently this is all to "help" us by tailoring the adverts we get shown. I could do without that kind of help personally...

Websites based on Europe are now meant to be more open about what cookies they are storing, what they are for, and to get "explicit consent" from you to do it. But most have not really bothered to fix their sites yet to comply. And sites based in other areas don't have to follow those rules.

frogspoon Wed 07-Aug-13 09:27:29

Well, I've had a look, and apparently I have almost 5000 cookies on my computer. Most seem to be for websites I've never heard of. I can delete them, but I might get logged out of mumsnet and I'm not sure if i'll remember my password.

Ah well, here goes...

Jewelledkaleidoscope Wed 07-Aug-13 09:27:57

I have a plug in on chrome that stood it- it's called 'do not track me'

Jewelledkaleidoscope Wed 07-Aug-13 09:28:22

*stops

Mumsnet can always send you a new password, as long as you have access to your email!

MrsHowardRoark Wed 07-Aug-13 09:35:44

I used to work for an Internet company and we could track users click for click across the site.

It's used to redesign sites so that they work better and maximise revenues.

A huge amount of effort goes into spying on you, you should be flattered wink

Branleuse Wed 07-Aug-13 09:40:16

well yes, its data mining and targeted advertising.

frogspoon Wed 07-Aug-13 09:42:09

Well, I did delete all my cookies, and blocked new ones, and I even managed to reset and log back into mumsnet

Except mumsnet didn't work properly until I unblocked the cookies.

I have been on one website (mums net) for about a minute, and I have already accumulated 26 new cookies!

magimedi Wed 07-Aug-13 09:47:28

I have my computer set so that all cookies are cleared every time I go off line.

The tricky thing is that a site like Mumsnet uses cookies to keep you logged in, which is vital to use the site, but it also uses advertising cookies - "Advertising networks may also use cookies to allow them to serve advertisements that they believe are relevant to you and your interests, based on your activity on our site and others." - from their cookies policy.

Personally, I really don't like it, as it means we don't have any choice. OTOH they are paid for by advertisers so it' hard to really complain about them using a mainstream and acceptable mechanism for doing that.

I just delete my existing cookies very frequently, so that I am less useful to the advertisers as a source of tracking information!

comingalongnicely Wed 07-Aug-13 10:11:14

A while ago it was discovered that some of the cheaper airline sites were "upping" the cost every time you looked at a flight. So the first time you look you get £60, the cookies are stored & the next time you look it goes up to £70 ('cos they know you're interested in that flight) - not sure if they got their wrists slapped for it, but you can get round it by changing some of the settings on your browser in regards to keeping cookies....

livinginwonderland Wed 07-Aug-13 11:48:52

I just block adverts!

AnnabelleLee Wed 07-Aug-13 11:54:24

You know in the last few months, there is a banner or a message on almost every website that says "accept cookies" or "this site uses cookies, please click here for more info"?
You know the ones, you don't read it you just click ok? Well that is there to tell you precisely how and why they are all "spying" on you.

frogspoon Wed 07-Aug-13 12:12:05

You know in the last few months, there is a banner or a message on almost every website that says "accept cookies" or "this site uses cookies, please click here for more info"?
You know the ones, you don't read it you just click ok? Well that is there to tell you precisely how and why they are all "spying" on you.

Yes, mumsnet may have notified me that it is using cookies.

But 2mdn.net, adnxs.com, akamihd.net, atdmt.com, awin1.com and the the other 28 websites that have stored cookies on my computer within the last 5 minutes did not!

My browser (safari) has a block cookies from third parties and advertisers, and an ask websites not to track me option. Both are selected, apparently they don't work very well!

The thing I dislike, as AMumInScotland has said, is that we have no choice. Facebook, mumsnet, twitter and hundreds of other websites will not work properly with cookies switched off. We have no option but to allow these and hundred of other third party websites to spy on us.

AnnabelleLee Wed 07-Aug-13 12:19:20

You can switch off all but the essential ones, and that includes the ones that target adverts at you.
Look it up. You do have choices, its up to you to find them and use them.

There are always options. You just don't know about them.

BatwingsAndButterflies Wed 07-Aug-13 12:27:12

I use google chrome for my browser and its really good, I have added adblock and DoNotTrackMe and that stops me from seeing any adverts as well as clearing all my cookies regularly.

LazyFaire Wed 07-Aug-13 12:28:04

My special favourite was the targeted facebook ad suggesting I might want to buy sperm from celebrities to impregnate myself with. I promise I have never visited any site that had anything to do with buying sperm, being artificially made pregnant, and very few that have anything to do with slebs!

hmm angry hmm I gave the facebook page in question a piece of my mind then blocked it!

You could get one of those Kitten-y (or boring) adblockers.

meganorks Wed 07-Aug-13 12:31:37

They are spying on you. I get followed round by all sorts of things I've looked at.
Most annoying was when looking for a house. We put an offer in on a house but we were concerned about price. Our survey confirmed fears so all fell through. But every time went online rightmove ads popped up with the house!

AnnabelleLee Thanks for the nudge - I have now had a dig around in my browser settings and limited myself to First Party cookies while blocking Third Party ones. I hadn't looked deep enough in my options to realise it was that granular.

daisychain01 Wed 07-Aug-13 13:57:10

They say that if something sounds too good to be true, then it is - so all these social media sites that everyone enjoys: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, they are all free - the trade-off being that they want your data, that's their business model. They sell advertising and they need us as their cannon fodder, to be bombarded with stuff we haven't asked for. Some people say its a price they are prepared to pay - losing their privacy, for the ability to have the freeby's like Facebook etc.

And of course we know it isn't the Internet itself that is 'spying', its each individual website with its different settings that provide companies with the ability to know our purchasing and browsing habits. The more reputable the company, the more open and transparent they are so that we can make decisions.

The lower you set your security levels on your browser, the less convenience you have, but the more you will be keeping your privacy if that is important to you. Disabling cookies means your web browser won't remember/autopopulate certain fields, eg Amazon, Facebook, etc. but at least you have increased security level, the less is known about your shopping habits. Cookies also gives info to those dudes who are employed to analyse traffic onto their website so they know all about you. And you rarely know if they create a massive database download and sell on your data to other organisations - they make the opt in / opt out boxes as confusing as possible - either tick here NOT to have your data shared (opt out) or tick here TO have your data shared (opt in). They rely on confusing people to get hold of your valuable data!

I remember being spooked out by adverts on a side-bar on Facebook which seemed so targeted they knew how old I was ... how did that happen? Ah yes, Facebook used the year of birth info in my profile. I soon stopped that by deleting my YYYY and just having DD / MM on my date of birth field. But there are sooo many different ways they use data, its impossible to control all of it.

The Internet of Tim Berners-Lee's vision, as an open sharing global community has become increasingly complex - with data privacy legislation varying from country to country, with people becoming less naive and demanding greater transparency about dangers and pitfalls.

NicholasTeakozy Wed 07-Aug-13 14:23:10

There's a natty addon for Firefox and Chrome (not sure if there's one for Safari) called Ghostery, which detects and blocks tracking cookies.

frogspoon Wed 07-Aug-13 14:27:05

They say that if something sounds too good to be true, then it is - so all these social media sites that everyone enjoys: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, they are all free - the trade-off being that they want your data, that's their business model. They sell advertising and they need us as their cannon fodder, to be bombarded with stuff we haven't asked for. Some people say its a price they are prepared to pay - losing their privacy, for the ability to have the freeby's like Facebook etc.

I understand what you mean, but what what about individuals who have not signed up to these social media sites, and never use them?

e.g. I have not signed up to LinkedIn, and don't really use the website as many profile have very limited information when not logged in.

Today I reset my browser, deleting all history, and also removed all cookies. However, despite me not having used the LinkedIn website today and not having an account, they have installed cookies on my computer. I definitely did not give my consent for them to do this.

Another website must have added them.

For a short while this morning I set my browser to prompt me every time a web page tried to add a cookie - it got dull very quickly, but it did show who was trying to add what.

I also, after Annabelle's suggestion earlier, changed my settings so that websites can add first party cookies (ie their own ones) but not third party ones (for other organisations) So now, MN has added 2 cookies for their own purposes, but none of the others.

You could have a look at your own settings and see what options you have, to work out who is putting these kinds of cookies on.

(Waits for thread to be deleted....)

frogspoon Wed 07-Aug-13 14:35:33

I also, after Annabelle's suggestion earlier, changed my settings so that websites can add first party cookies (ie their own ones) but not third party ones (for other organisations) So now, MN has added 2 cookies for their own purposes, but none of the others.

You could have a look at your own settings and see what options you have, to work out who is putting these kinds of cookies on.

I did do this, as I posted in my earlier post at 12:12:

My browser (safari) has a block cookies from third parties and advertisers, and an ask websites not to track me option. Both are selected, apparently they don't work very well!

So enabling these settings is clearly ineffective. If they worked I wouldn't have cookies on my computer from random websites and companies. Not really sure what to do about it, except maybe try another browser e.g. chrome and see if it is more secure.

Hmm, that does sound like they're not very useful then!

frogspoon Wed 07-Aug-13 15:05:42

Hmm, that does sound like they're not very useful then!

Apparently not!

AnnabelleLee and AMumInScotland, you seem to be having more success than I am, which browser are you using and what settings?

I'm on IE7, on there it is in Internet Options - Privacy - Advanced
and you can pick from Accept, Block, or Prompt for each of First Party and Third Party.

frogspoon Wed 07-Aug-13 15:24:29

I'm on IE7, on there it is in Internet Options - Privacy - Advanced and you can pick from Accept, Block, or Prompt for each of First Party and Third Party.

Ah, I'm on a Mac, so can't get IE.

ratspeaker Wed 07-Aug-13 15:43:00

Why not just clear your cookies?
I do several times a day.
In chrome click on the 3 bars up on the right, select history, check the boxes you want cleared,
In firefox click on history, clear history , check the boxes, clear now

theres a free programme called cccleaner which also works well,just run it when you want rid of cookies, cache etc

flatpackhamster Wed 07-Aug-13 18:27:59

AMumInScotland

^I'm on IE7, on there it is in Internet Options - Privacy - Advanced
and you can pick from Accept, Block, or Prompt for each of First Party and Third Party.^

You really need to update your browser. IE7? That's like having unprotected sex with the entire internet.

frogspoon

Ah, I'm on a Mac, so can't get IE.

Don't Mozilla make Firefox for the Mac?

frogspoon Wed 07-Aug-13 18:56:14

Don't Mozilla make Firefox for the Mac?

They do, but I've found it slower than Safari. Might have better privacy setting though.

I know what you mean, we are in the process of emigrating and suddenly, all the adverts are for emigration agents, removals, currency exchange etc. mind you all my Facebook adverts are for weightloss and I've not been searching for that so they must be looking at me!!!

cozietoesie Wed 07-Aug-13 19:36:08

If you're having problems with automatic removal, just get a (free) spyware/malware removal package. Not resource hungry so you can run it a couple of times a week in the background without difficulty - and it will zap trojans etc if you're lightly infected.

sydlexic Wed 07-Aug-13 19:36:18

I had a look at places to visit on holiday, adverts popped up on MN for those places. I went out and when I got back the ad was for online dating, should I be worried?

cozietoesie Wed 07-Aug-13 19:38:18

Not necessarily. grin Sites for 'hot' cars also load you with porn links - it just depends on the buying links the sellers have established.

llittleyello Thu 08-Aug-13 08:55:26

ha this new interweb cookies/advertising development has been a shock in terms of what I see reflected back at me:

e.g. this morning, extra wide hush puppy shoes and 90 denier tights ...

really need to sharpen up my image-two adverts have been a good wake up call :-)

cozietoesie Thu 08-Aug-13 08:56:29

grin

zipzap Thu 08-Aug-13 09:49:45

And of course if you're on a shared device it means you get to see what else has been searched for on it by dint of all the targeted ads that get served up to you...

So most of the time its not an issue. But it can be, from annoying if your dh figures out that you're planning on getting him golf clubs for his birthday or Christmas - but potentially horrendous if you are a victim of domestic abuse and have been researching divorce solicitors, women's aid, refuges etc where the ads for these would tip off your abusive husband. or a teenage dd that is worried she might be pregnant could inadvertently reveal it to her parents before she is ready to if they spot ads for pregnancy tests.

Those are only a couple of examples but you can imagine plenty more. And I think it's why sites like MN should in targeted areas make sure that those who might be vulnerable to being caught out like this can raise awareness that this can be a problem and then access a really simple set of instructions on what to do to help protect themselves.

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