Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Privacy

New Technique for Tracking Web Site Visitors 590

Posted by timothy
from the hi-there-we-remember-you dept.
bigtallmofo writes "According to Jupiter Research, 58% of web surfers deleted cookies from their system in 2004. This has sent a loud message to marketers in regard to consumer's preference as to tracking their online activities. The marketers have responded with PIE. Persistent Identification Element (PIE) is a technology that uses Macromedia's Flash MX to track you even without using cookies. Macromedia has created a page to instruct users on how to disable this."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Technique for Tracking Web Site Visitors

Comments Filter:
  • by nizo (81281) * on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:14PM (#12135107) Homepage Journal
    Applications that are created using Macromedia Flash may want to have access to the camera and/or microphone available on your computer.

    Does firefox have a plugin that reminds me to either put clothes on or turn off my camera before loading a flash plugin?

  • if i had a girlfriend...
  • by joeslugg (8092) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:14PM (#12135116)
    "MMMMMMMmmmmmm.... PIE..."
  • ... it's as easy as PIE.

    Sorry.
  • And... (Score:5, Funny)

    by hackstraw (262471) * on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:14PM (#12135120)

    I still won't load plugins into my browser, even if they offer the feature of being able to track me better.
  • by I_am_Rambi (536614) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:15PM (#12135123) Homepage
    not to install flash. What good features did it have anyway?
    • It gives you a reason to use

      Flashblock [mozdev.org]
    • by RailGunner (554645) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:20PM (#12135194) Journal
      Homestarrunner.com

      Strong Bad is worth putting up with a little bit of flash for.

    • by nkh (750837) <exochicken&gmail,com> on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:21PM (#12135205) Journal
      What good features did it have anyway?

      I need it to read Strong Bad's email on my Lappy 486, and a few other sites use Flash in a "not so bad" way like animations (yes, I know it's a waste of time) or artistic features.

      And if you use the FlashBlock extension, nothing is loaded automatically, you have to click the button to enable a specific animation, nothing to fear.
    • To require that all websites ask your permission before using your camera or microphone, or to prevent any website from accessing your camera or microphone, you use the Global Privacy Settings Panel.

      To specify the amount of disk space that websites you haven't yet visited can use to store information on your computer, or to prevent websites you haven't yet visited from storing information on your computer, you use the Global Storage Settings Panel.

      To specify if certain websites are allowed to access i

    • by ajs (35943) <ajsNO@SPAMajs.com> on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:33PM (#12135343) Homepage Journal
      Flash has a number of excellent features, which will continue to be a useful and valuable thing until SVG integration into mainstream browsers is complete.

      Vector drawing is one of those things that sounds like a useless add-on until you consider how much time and disk cash you devote to every two-bit logo you see every day. If logos were all vector graphics, they'd be far smaller, far better looking on whatever display type you happen to have (because YOU get to choose how the rendering is optimized for that device) and generally much more usable.

      Woefully, this isn't why people use Flash. People use Flash because they want to ANIMATE, and animation is rarely a boon for the end-user.

      Even worse, it's often used to hijack the look and feel of your browser, imposing some horrid DVD-like menu system that you have to re-learn to interact with (and have no hope if you're disabled).
    • by Storlek (860226) on Monday April 04, 2005 @01:33PM (#12136025)
      One really neat feature of Flash is its ability to stream an MP3 file within the browser, and do so portably and easily. Take the Xploding Plastix [xplodingplastix.com] site -- this is an excellent demonstration of Flash done right. (It also helps that their music's great.) Pure Volume [purevolume.com] and My Space [myspace.com] have Flash-based players as well, though the S/N ratio there is pretty weak.

      It's a double-edged sword, though, and for every site that uses Flash in a decent manner like this, there's a Flash ad with sound effects, and two more with graphics that slide, blink, spin, change colors, and suck up a lot of CPU for no good reason. On top of that, now we have Flash-based click tracking. This seems to happen with a lot of promising technologies; it has an obvious benefit, but the wrong people started using it for the wrong things. Fortunately, at least there's Flash click-to-play.
  • by nagora (177841) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:15PM (#12135125)
    That I browse with plugins switched off unless I absolutely HAVE to use a site's Flash.

    I have the Register to thank for this as their story pages are unreadable with Flash enabled due to haveing THREE flaming animations running at a time.

    TWW

  • Yah (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:15PM (#12135126) Homepage
    But how about I just disable Flash instead.

    If it's being used for this then I guess I can finally take the plunge and get it off my machine completely. I guess I'll be missing all that "cool" stuff on "teh interweb" but I'm sure I'll survive.

    I bet Macromedia is thinking the same thing.

  • Flash(id)blocker (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iamavirus (590736) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:16PM (#12135143)
    Request: Can someone make a plugin for moxilla/firefox that blocks this? This would be somewhat akin to the flashblocker plugin that already exists (and is highly recommended).
    • Flash Shared Objects (Score:4, Informative)

      by bsd4me (759597) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:40PM (#12135427)

      I'm not sure about blocking it, but at least on Windows, the Flash local shared objects are stored in C:\Documents and Settings\user\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash Player and have a file extension of .sol. It is rather easy to delete them. Remote shared objects are a different story, but I don't see how these are really different than server side scripting tricks using sessions (eg, use a php script to serve up an image, and start a session).

    • Opera blocker (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rishistar (662278)
      The Opera 8 [opera.com] Beta I use has a nice turn plugins on/off button which I put next the turn images on/off button. Admitedly these are global rather than per site, but in most cases flash is used in adverts so it doesn't trouble me having plugins turned off all the time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:17PM (#12135149)
    first cookies then pies

    sheesh what's next.. cake?

    -SJ53
  • by Alaren (682568) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:18PM (#12135156)
    ...for marketers out there. I'm not interested in "targeted" advertising any more than I'm interested in the "plain" variety.

    If you want my information, ask for it. Some people like targetted advertising, find it useful (or at least "more" useful). Lets make information tracking opt-in rather than opt-out. Programs like MyPoints or whatever its called where you view addvertising for some tiny compensation, for instance--not my cup of tea, but that way it's there for those who want it, and it's opt-in.

    P.S. I block Flash during normal browsing. One more beauty of non-IE browsers!

  • by cfalcon (779563) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:18PM (#12135169)
    That Firefox flashblock is one of the best technologies ever. The idea is so simple, and should have been an option in the actual flash itself: the thing doesn't load unless you click on it and say so. Most things should be like that, or be able to be set like that, and it's annoying when a company wants to control your property in such a fashion.

    I mean, I have flash to play the occasional game or watch a movie. That shouldn't make me susceptible to ads crapping all over my eyeballs.

    More importantly, Macromedia should be on my side with this, unless they are somehow benefitting everytime a flash app is loaded (which isn't impossible, but creates a serious conflict of interest).
    • by BeBoxer (14448) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:53PM (#12135591)
      Macromedia should be on my side with this, unless they are somehow benefitting everytime a flash app is loaded (which isn't impossible, but creates a serious conflict of interest).

      Did you pay Macromedia for a Flash plugin? No. Did the web developer pay Macromedia for a tool to create Flash? Yes. Does that answer your question as to Macromedia's loyalty?
  • by MisterLawyer (770687) <{mikelawyer} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:18PM (#12135170)
    All those... Delicious... Cookies... Squandered...

    Over half of all web users' cookies? That would be enough cookies to feed the populations of Africa and India for, like, decades.

  • by tinrobot (314936) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:19PM (#12135174)
    I'm putting my system on a low carb diet.
  • PRON (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sperryfreak01 (855471) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:19PM (#12135178) Homepage
    I dont mind if people see where I have been on the net cause like most /.'ers I only go two places /. and porn sites
  • thanks, guys! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by to_kallon (778547) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:19PM (#12135180)
    Mookie Tanembaum, founder and chief executive of United Virtualities, says the company is trying to help consumers by preventing them from deleting cookies that help website operators deliver better services.

    gee, thanks mookie, i just wouldn't know what to believe on the internet if it weren't for all your protection. oh, and thanks for preventing me from deleting my own files. you're right, i really did want those after all. you're such a good friend.
    *happy sigh*
  • Camera / Microphone (Score:2, Interesting)

    by beerman2k (521609)
    I've noticed for a while that Flash, by default, denies access to your camera and microphone. I'm wondering however, why there is even a setting for this. Who in the right mind would allow random Flash applications access to their camera and microphone? What use would this have?
    • by mopslik (688435)

      Who in the right mind would allow random Flash applications access to their camera and microphone? What use would this have?

      Flash-based chat rooms, perhaps? I recall seeing a how-to article for this exact purpose somewhere on Macromedia's site a few years back.

  • "says the company is trying to help consumers by preventing them from deleting cookies that help website operators deliver better services.
    "The user is not proficient enough in technology to know if the cookie is good or bad, or how it works," Tanembaum said. "

    My, that makes me feel better, knowing that the wise marketeer is looking out for my best interests.

  • What a shitty link (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:22PM (#12135217)
    Look, I'm all in favor of RTFM, but if the poster says that Macromedia has constructed a page to address the PIE issue, and then "Persistent Identification Element" doesn't even come up in the Macromedia (Google-powered) search engine, then how worthy is the submission?



    • by mabu (178417)
      The global configuration is kind of spotty at best in helping you determine how to turn some of this stuff off. I assume that maybe if you set the allocated storage space value to "none", then maybe it will disable the use of local stored objects. Otherwise, this looks suspciously like a cookie-type manager where you can only delete the information that has already been stored.
    • 1. Point your browser to Macromedia's Global Storage Settings Panel [macromedia.com].
      2. Drag the slider to "None". The setting seems to take effect immediately.
      3. Click the last tab on the right, a picture of a folder with a green arrow pointing in.
      4. Any sites that have already stored data locally will show a value in the "used" column. I had a few suspicious entries in mine which were instantly cleared by clicking "delete all".
  • by Letter (634816) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:23PM (#12135235)
    Dear Slashdot,

    To aid your visitor tracking, here is today's log of my Slashdot visits:

    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 13:17:56 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 13:25:05 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 13:44:12 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:01:40 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:10:33 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:30:54 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:33:20 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:33:20 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:33:21 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:33:22 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:33:22 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:33:23 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:33:24 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 14:33:25 GMT <-- "first post"
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 15:01:50 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 16:20:17 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 16:35:21 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 16:50:55 GMT
    Mon, 04 Apr 2005 17:16:09 GMT

    Log on,
    Letter

  • by LogicX (8327) * <[su.xcigol] [ta] [todhsals]> on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:23PM (#12135239) Homepage Journal
    Although I was initially shocked by reading this, I'm not too concerned because I already use FlashBlock [mozdev.org] Firefox extension.

    From the site: "Flashblock is an extension for the Mozilla and Firefox browsers that takes a pessimistic approach to dealing with Macromedia Flash content on a webpage and blocks ALL Flash content from loading. It then leaves a placeholder on the page that allows you to click to view the Flash content."

    In most cases I've found this very handy, as ads on websites have recently been switching to a flash format (Yes, I could also be running the adblock extension).

    For the few sites that I need it for (MBNA's Shop Safe Applet) I just click where the flash wanted to load, and it allows it.

    I highly recommend this extension.

    I now understand what those little flash icons trying to load in the corner of the browser were.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:24PM (#12135251) Homepage
    Flash was once a rather nice delivery system for animated content. Then it became an advertising delivery system. Now it's becoming an adware/spyware vehicle.

    It's almost, but not quite, time for spyware removal programs to remove Flash as hostile code. It's probably time for programs like AdAware to offer the user the option of easily removing Flash. Perhaps with a message like this:

    "Macromedia Flash is a program used primarily to deliver advertising messages. It can turn on your microphone and camera (if present) and transmit the results to advertisers, store personalized data on your machine and transmit it to advertisers, and play commercials with audio. Do you want to remove Macromedia Flash?"

    • Mod parent up (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TopSpin (753) *
      Flash was once a rather nice delivery system for animated content. Then it became an advertising delivery system. Now it's becoming an adware/spyware vehicle.

      Macromedia? Are you paying attention?

      If you let this crap go on too long you're going to wreck your platform. People (a small fraction of them) are starting to think your stuff is a giant hole through which marketing zombies are driving Mac trucks. What happens to you when it's 15, 25 or 50%?

      The page you provided is helpful; it also demonstrates
  • by feloneous cat (564318) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:26PM (#12135277)
    ... I'm on dialup.

    99% of the time I bail before Flash has time to load .
  • by RealAlaskan (576404) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:30PM (#12135312) Homepage Journal
    I have learned that sites which use flash are sights I don't need to see.

    I have uninstalled flash. When I see the little ``puzzle piece'', I know that I've found a site that isn't worth visiting, so Flash is a great time saver for me.

  • by aardwolf204 (630780) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:33PM (#12135349)
    "By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing... kill yourself. No, no, no it's just a little thought. I'm just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day, they'll take root - I don't know. You try, you do what you can. Kill yourself. Seriously though, if you are, do. Aaah, no really, there's no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan's little helpers, Okay - kill yourself - seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously.

    No this is not a joke, you're going, "there's going to be a joke coming," there's no fucking joke coming. You are Satan's spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked and you are fucking us. Kill yourself. It's the only way to save your fucking soul, kill yourself. Planting seeds. I know all the marketing people are going, "he's doing a joke"... there's no joke here whatsoever. Suck a tail-pipe, fucking hang yourself, borrow a gun from a friend - I don't care how you do it. Rid the world of your evil fucking machinations. I know what all the marketing people are thinking right now too, "Oh, you know what Bill's doing, he's going for that anti-marketing dollar. That's a good market, he's very smart." Oh man, I am not doing that. You fucking evil scumbags! "Ooh, you know what Bill's doing now, he's going for the righteous indignation dollar. That's a big dollar. A lot of people are feeling that indignation. We've done research - huge market. He's doing a good thing." Godammit, I'm not doing that, you scum-bags! Quit putting a godamm dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!

    "Ooh, the anger dollar. Huge. Huge in times of recession. Giant market, Bill's very bright to do that." God, I'm just caught in a fucking web! "Ooh the trapped dollar, big dollar, huge dollar. Good market - look at our research. We see that many people feel trapped. If we play to that and then separate them into the trapped dollar..." How do you live like that? And I bet you sleep like fucking babies at night, don't you?"
  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:48PM (#12135526) Journal
    I see the half-informed Flash bashers are out in force today. Here's the standard rebuttal [slashdot.org] to your half-baked arguments against Flash.

    Anyone who mods me down for expressing this perfectly valid opinion needs to get out more.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday April 04, 2005 @12:59PM (#12135655)
    Since flash based sites are annoying for a variety of reasons (read about them in other posts) I've taken to using the mobile versions of websites. For instance Hollywood.com [hollywood.com] is a useful site for finding movie showtimes but it's heavily flash/shockwave based and very annoying to view. So I use their version for mobile devices [hollywood.com] which has the information I actually care about (movie locations and showtimes) without all the extra fluff. There's nothing preventing you from viewing these on a regular browser and they are MUCH faster. True, they don't have all the features of the regular sites but if you just need the basics they are great. These sites also will help those of people who constantly whine about how bloated everything is. (you know who you are...)

    Some others include:
    Amazon.com [amazon.com]
    American Airlines [flightlookup.com]
    Slashdot [slashdot.org]

  • by c0d3h4x0r (604141) on Monday April 04, 2005 @01:01PM (#12135669) Homepage Journal
    This has sent a loud message to marketers in regard to consumer's preference as to tracking their online activities.

    Bad assumption. This could just mean that people value their privacy. Most people don't even know what cookies are, but they do know that when they clear history, cookies, and everything else, then the next person who uses their computer to hit MSN or Yahoo or a variety of other sites won't accidentally be logged in using their cached credentials.

    Also, you're forgetting about all the false positives that many corporate firewalls will generate.

    This survey is hopelessly flawed. If you want to collect real data, you have to track how many times users actually go into their browser settings and manually clear the cookies, and you have to also ask them why they are doing it.

  • SVG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Javac (108765) on Monday April 04, 2005 @01:03PM (#12135697)
    I think it's time for SVG to replace flash for our vector animation needs. It can be lightweight (in it's gzipped form), and doesn't have delusions of grander about being an application development environment (which flash does rather poorly). It's nice to see that SVG is making head-ways in Linux (especially KDE) and the mobile market, but we need to get the word out to the general populace (or, at least, web developers).
  • by TractorBarry (788340) on Monday April 04, 2005 @02:10PM (#12136396) Homepage
    Well I've already bypassed this new fanlged "PIE" crap by not installing Macromedias bloody Flash in the first place.

    Seriously what good at all is Flash ? All it's used for is yet more marketroid spam. Having a flash enabled browser is like inviting an obnoxious teenager to come in your house and yell at you.

    So what do I miss not having it ? About 3 mildly entertaining "cartoon" like things (I've seen these on a co workers box and whilst they're quite amusing I don't see my life as being any poorer by not seeing them more often) It utterly amazes me that people will willingly run this crap.

    Sorry but I'm old fashioned. The only thing I want from a website is some well crafted HTML/CSS, with some supporting plain "non animated" images, and at the most, some simple client side javascript for stuff like menus (and don't worry I'll be looking at your script first. If I can't see it, it ain't running) You can do what you want on your server but not in my broser.

    History has told me that allowing anything else is a disaster waiting to happen (Active-X anyone ?)

    But ultimately my message to advertisers etc. is simple. You're not using my resources to advertise at me, to track me, in fact to do anything. You're not welcome to phone me, send me junk mail, knock on my door or stop me in the street. Bother me with your crap and you'll get a simple reply "Fuck off and die".

    There that told 'em ;)
    • by glesga_kiss (596639) on Monday April 04, 2005 @04:08PM (#12137809)
      But ultimately my message to advertisers etc. is simple. [snip] Bother me with your crap and you'll get a simple reply "Fuck off and die".

      Ah, but their advertising is still getting to you. Brand recognition. When was the last time you choose a brand you'd heard of over one you'd never heard of? That's advertising. Otherwise, you'd have heard of neither.

      Oh, which Cola do you drink? ;-)

  • by DanCentury (110562) on Monday April 04, 2005 @02:39PM (#12136687)
    Flash would actually be more powerful than cookies, because it would share the same information between browsers. Browsers (IE, Firefox) typically have their own unique set of cookie data. Flash uses a single set of data for all browsers on a machine. So if you visit the Gadgetron (semi-fictional company) website using Firefox in the morning, and then return to the same site with IE, Flash will recognise you as the same customer. This works on Windows at least.

    But don't tell marking folks that.
  • by krunk4ever (856261) on Monday April 04, 2005 @02:58PM (#12136910) Homepage
    to delete cookies to fix problems. when my dad couldn't get his bofa online account to work, the customer service rep told him to delete his cookies as well as the temporary internet files. and guess what, that did the trick!
  • Choice Quote: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Angry Mick (632931) on Monday April 04, 2005 @02:59PM (#12136916) Homepage
    United Virtualities's PIE helps combat this consumer behavior by leveraging a feature in Flash MX called local shared objects [emphasis mine]

    So this is what it's come to: we the consumers are officially enemy combatants?!?

    OK then, fine. I can live with that.

    But tell me one thing: can a businesses that hires a marketeer that treats their customers thus way live without my business, or say, the business of the 58% of Internet users that are apparently getting tired enough of this crap to actively seek out and delete cookies?

    Didn't think so.

    Business needs to realize that it is precisely because of this entitlement mentality that people are beginning to get pissed. Personal lives and habits are not a gift given automatically with the purchase of a six-pack. My $3.49 doesn't give you any right to compile a psychological shoppping profile. You want to know about my buying habits? Ask Me!!! Try to take it without my knowledge, or sneak it off my hard drive and I'll treat your business no better than I would a common thief: from an extreme distance, and fully armed.

It was kinda like stuffing the wrong card in a computer, when you're stickin' those artificial stimulants in your arm. -- Dion, noted computer scientist

Working...