Monday, December 13, 2004


Some teasers for the privacy horror show

Is this weird, or what?

Okay, it's happened again. Microsoft has hijacked my sidebar link to Conglomerate. The irony is not lost on us. Is the Imperial Death Star of the Computer World claiming an intellectual property right in all words redolent of its corporate existence? Like, "Monopoly," "Corporate Giant," and "Trust"?

One of the reasons the internet has been described as a "privacy horror show" is the fact that your clickstream can be (is?) recorded by your internet service provider, perhaps by spyware on your computer, and lord knows what or who else, meaning that the web sites visited by "you" (your IP number to be precise) are being recorded as you surf.

Interestingly, it seems that hit counters -- like Sitemeter and CQ, on my sidebar, at left -- are themselves a form of surveillance technology, recording among other things the IP numbers of all 14 of you who visit my site, as well as the web page that "referred" you. Click on the icon and see for yourself! Not that I can translate an IP number into your name, but then I'm kind of ignorant when it comes to technology. If Microsoft doesn't like the proposed nominee for the post of Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division, do you think they can derail his nomination by leaking information about what porn sites he visited?

I sometimes check the "referral" information on my hit counters, which gives the URL of the page from which a web-surfer cam to my blog. This is pure self indulgence. If somebody visits this blog directly from another one, perhaps that other one has linked to me! Oddly, I find that (1) many of those so-called referrers make no mention of CM (short for Columnist Manifesto -- catchy, yes?) whatsoever and (2) there are some weird blogs out there.

One of my faux "referral" URLs was for a blog about guns. Apparently there is an entire subculture of gun blogs, and this one was filled with technical information, pictures and descriptions of "what gun I fired today."

One "referring" blog is called "Shoes,"written by a blogger who calls him/herself "Shoes." It didn't mention CM, but it did have daily entries about... well, shoes. The following entry was typical:

Friday, December 10, 2004

mailorder skate shoes

There are lots of places on the internet where you can buy mailorder skate shoes but how can you be sure that when you purchase mailorder skate shoes you are shopping in safety and that you will actually receive your purchase?

This is where we can help. We've sorted through all the possible places on the internet where you can buy mailorder skate shoes and we've found the best. A place where you can get mailorder skate shoes at a great price and be sure that you will get what you've paid for.
When I say typical, I mean it. Only the title and italicized phrase changed in the various blog entries; the text otherwise remained the same, whether the topic was "bargain womens climbing shoes" or "bridal shoes ny transit."

A similar blog, with the intriguing URL turns out to be called "Online Degree." Recent entries include "online-computer-science-degree" and "online-law-degree." The text is even less enthralling than "mailorder skate shoes," and the title of each otherwise identical post is a link to -- an online degree website. I'm guessing that Joe Bozeman, the author of the Online Degree blog, responded to one of those late night informercials where they explain that you can earn thousands of dollars by "placing little, tiny ads."

I fear that this may all come full circle one day. My waking nightmare: I am deemed unfit to teach law school because it is discovered that I obtained my law degree online, where I also, fetishistically, surf the web for shoe sales. The information is leaked by Microsoft.

I am looking everywhere for athletic shoes and athletic shoes, while doing so I somehow stumbled onto your athletic shoes blog. I am happy to say I learned something and will look into this further...

Thanks for the great posts...

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Hi :)

You have a great blog! Keep up the great work, and I'll be sure to visit regularly.

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Look forward to reading more of your insightful post!
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