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How Websites Know Your Email Address the First Time You Visit 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the dark-sorcery-and-a-disregard-for-privacy dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Darren Nix works for 42Floors, a business that uses its website to help people find office space. He recently received a marketing email for a service that offered to identify visitors to his website. After squeezing some information out of the marketer and playing around with a demo account, he now explains exactly how sketchy companies track your presence across multiple websites. The marketer offered to provide Nix with 'tracking code that would sit in your web site' which would 'grab a few key pieces of data from each visitor.' This includes IP addresses and search engine data. The marketer's company would then automatically analyze the data to try to identify the user and send back whatever personal information they've collected on that user from different websites. Thus, it's entirely possible for a site to know your name, email address, and company on your very first visit, and without any interaction on your part. Nix writes, 'A real-world analogue would be this scenario: You drive to Home Depot and walk in. Closed-circuit cameras match your face against a database of every shopper that has used a credit card at Walmart or Target and identifies you by name, address, and phone. If you happen to walk out the front door without buying anything your phone buzzes with a text message from Home Depot offering you a 10% discount good for the next hour. Farfetched? I don't think so. ... All the necessary pieces already exist, they just haven't been combined yet.'"
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How Websites Know Your Email Address the First Time You Visit

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  • 10% ? Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coinreturn (617535) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @08:19AM (#42259571)
    When this scenario plays out, I will gladly walk into and out of every store if I can expect a 10% off coupon for doing so.
  • Re:10% ? Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LoverOfJoy (820058) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @08:24AM (#42259611) Homepage

    When this scenario plays out, I will gladly walk into and out of every store if I can expect a 10% off coupon for doing so.

    *Some restrictions apply...

  • Re:Tor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @09:10AM (#42259987)

    Not me. I'm behind ten proxies and use Tor for everything. I use throwaway e-mail addresses from places like Mailinator. I even registered my gmail account using a hospital courtesy phone... that was in another country.

    You have utterly succeeded in missing the point - you are an aberration. The problem here is that normal people, behaving normally, are unknowingly subject to this shit through no fault of their own. We should not need to be randian privacy ubermen in order to have privacy.

    These stalking companies are taking advantage of the fact that by default society requires a certain level of openness to function. They are abusing that openness for their own enrichment - they are encouraging people to behave like you and in the long run as more people take similar countermeasures that makes society less functional. In effect they are stealing from all of us by leeching away at the trust that greases the gears of a functioning society.

  • Re:10% ? Great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @09:38AM (#42260281) Homepage Journal

    I prefer to pay by giving my email address than by real money.

    Then you are a fool.

    Some people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @10:10AM (#42260685)

    A lot of big bulk email providers are catching on to that and just truncate the trailing part for gmail accounts. Any company using Exact Target (a very very popular provider) will have that "feature" by default (started a few months ago i think. It didn't use to do that and then one day, poof!).

  • Re:10% ? Great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by davester666 (731373) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @01:53PM (#42263553) Journal

    * Offer does not apply to anything you want to buy.

  • Re:10% ? Great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @01:57PM (#42263605)

    When this scenario plays out, I will gladly walk into and out of every store if I can expect a 10% off coupon for doing so.

    Do you really think you're saving any money in the long run? When people get such discounts, the base price of everything goes up - after all, ultimately the manufacturer or seller isn't picking up the tab, the consumers are. So it's a temporary advantage, offset both by the higher prices other buyers pay as a result of YOUR discount, and by the higher prices YOU pay when you buy something that you don't get a discount on, but other buyers do. To paraphrase Syndrome in the Incredibles, "When everyone gets a discount, then no one does". Also, via Heinlein, "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch"

    The whole thing is a zero-sum game, except for the manufacturers and sellers - they get their fingers on our privacy and entranceways into our lives, and we, ultimately, get nothing in return.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.

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