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Detailed Privacy Study Finds Loopholes Galore

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the get-over-it dept.

Privacy 126

BrianWCarver writes "The San Francisco Business Times covers a study by student researchers at UC Berkeley's School of Information pointing up the massive holes in privacy policies and protections of which US companies take advantage. The researchers have released a study and launched a Web site, knowprivacy.org, in which they found that Web bugs from Google and its subsidiaries were placed on 92 of the top 100 Web sites and 88 percent of the approximately 394,000 unique domains examined in the study. This larger data set was provided by the maintainer of the Firefox plugin Ghostery, which shows users which Web bugs are on the sites they visit. The study also found that while the privacy policies of many popular Web sites claim that the sites do not share information with third parties, they do allow third parties to place Web bugs on their sites (which collect this information directly, typically without users' knowledge) and share with corporate 'affiliates.' Bank of America, to take one extreme example, has more than 2,300 affiliates — and users cannot learn their identities. The full report and more findings are available from their Web site."

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126 comments

Guilty as charged (3, Insightful)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 5 years ago | (#28190685)

Agreed. Trackers such as Google Analytics and more have been around for years. But now it's getting even worse with the flurry of URL shorteners. Not only can't you see what the real URL points to, its main purpose is to track, track, track.

Personally, I don't believe it makes sense to have a web completely free of "web bugs". I'd rather have some pretty strong laws, along the lines of the presumption of innocence, so that anything collected about you can't possibly be used against you if it was obtained "by chance". That would be a start.

--
escape the corporate world, code for fun and profit [fairsoftware.net]

Re:Guilty as charged (0, Offtopic)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 5 years ago | (#28190787)

Stop spamming us with your Web site. Many of us browse with sigs turned off for a reason. The day that I start being responsible for organizing the county fair, I'll check out your fair software site, but only if you give me the cotton candy upgrade for free.

Re:Guilty as charged (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28190865)

fuck you mod that put him as offtopic... gp is more off-topic, ever wonder how he happens to have so many of the first posts that are barely relevant to the story and include a link to his gaysoftware.net ?

Re:Guilty as charged (0, Flamebait)

mr_stinky_britches (926212) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192341)

Yep, he is a flaming pair shaped ham of a porker. Oink oink, alain! O I N K !

Re:Guilty as charged (5, Insightful)

orngjce223 (1505655) | more than 5 years ago | (#28190827)

Here's the thing. People don't *want* to be tracked across websites. (Just like they don't *want* to see ads at all... but I digress.) The equivalent is the local store providing a small button-sticker, without your permission, at the door that not only lets their associates direct you to sections you might actually be interested in, but track you via GPS into other stores to see what you buy. And I mean you can take them off later (delete the cookies and all that), but then every other store provides the exact same sticker and some require you to present the sticker at every counter for service. It's something that a paranoid would probably say already happens, but the fact is, that this is turning us *all* paranoid. I don't like being paranoid.

On the other hand, Mr. President Obama has kept quiet on privacy, so we don't even know what his stances are on this issue...

...and so what? (2, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191055)

I have Google Analytics on my websites. It gives me lots of useful information about my users in a format that is easy to understand. But, about the only thing it tells me that I couldn't discern from the server logs is where people link in from.

Now, this does mean that Google gets a record of when an IP address visited my server and what page they looked at. Is this an invasion of privacy? I don't think so. What's the worst that is going to happen? Google sells my browsing habits so that companies I already have a business relationship with send me targeted advertising? OH NO!

What we need is legal limits on what can be done with collected information. We already have some - companies can't email me out of the blue unless we have an established relationship. We could perhaps use some additional protection in terms of public release of possibly not-entirely-flattering personal information.

But beyond that, who cares? Privacy isn't, by itself, important. What we care about is negative consequences of our privacy being invaded. I don't want my friends to know about my Enzyte purchases, for example, but if I cancel my Enztye order and place a Capatrex order, what's the big deal if Enzyte sends me an email with a special offer to double my order for the same price?**

(Note: I would never actually use either Enzyte or Capatrex... when I could use both!)

Anyway, if it really bothers you, it's not like anoyne is actually sharing your information with 3rd parties anyway. Those web bugs don't get their information from the websites you visit, they get that information from you - it's YOUR browser on YOUR computer that sends the request to Google Analytics et al. If you don't want your browser to do that, block the sites.

Re:...and so what? (2, Insightful)

jimmyswimmy (749153) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191203)

In my mind it's enough that Google is able to understand how my thought processes develop by tracking search queries - which is an overt and expectable result when I tell them what I'm looking for. And since they present the results to me, they also get to see which ones are appealing, both by me clicking on the result link (and thereby telling them which one I have clicked) as well as by whether I return for a similar search, or a search which takes me down a related tangent.

But I don't care for the idea that Google or any other company can know which other sites I visit, either as a result of (omg) Yahoo searches or whatever MS calls their search engine these days. Or even sites whose names I know, like facebook or various company sites whose names are typically companyname.com or similar. In other words, if I didn't ask them for it, it's not their business to know. In fact, I see it as my business alone. The fact that there is value to tracking that information, or appending that data (where I surf) to some customer record that contains my real name and address - I should have some level of control over that information. My (sadly unrealistic) opinion is that Choicepoint should be paying me a percentage of their revenue when they sell information about me. I don't care that it's aggregated - there is value to that data, it should not be theirs to sell with no restrictions.

Re:...and so what? (2, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191251)

... that I couldn't discern from the server logs is where people link in from.

Hrm, strange. You would think your server would both be able to read and log the Referer [w3.org] request header.

Referrer information is client-sourced, not server (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192601)

Hrm, strange. You would think your server would both be able to read and log the Referer request header.

It would, if the client is kind enough to send it, which it may not be. But if a web bug exists on the referring and target pages, that data is obtained regardless of whether the client sends it.

Regardless, you can only count on your server logs to present you accurate data if it's server-generated data. Number of hits in a given time-frame from a particular IP, yes. Website referrals? No.

Re:...and so what? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28191253)

Those are excellent points.

BTW, from your recent purchasing history on one of our affiliate sites we've noticed that you are interested in laxatives. May we suggest "Stool-Max" (tm), the new and improved laxative to provide 24 hours of continuous relief? Many customers who are fans of Bon Jovi like yourself, have benefited from this breakthrough product.

Sounds good! (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192609)

24 hours of continuous relief

But hold on a second... exactly how continuous is the relief?

Is there an intermittent-relief version? Maybe every 60 minutes or so?

Re:Sounds good! (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192697)


You fool - such relief would be continual. ;)

Re:...and so what? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193391)

The parent jests, but this sort of thing has been happening for years. The example I always remember is Tesco (biggest supermarket chain in the UK):

Tesco noticed that men who bought baby products often also bought beer or wine in certain stores. Turns out young fathers could be tempted rather easily into buying alcohol if you just put it next to the baby products. Well done for encouraging responsible parenting.

Maybe the /. crowd is immune to that kind of manipulation, but clearly large sections of the population are not.

Re:...and so what? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193705)

"Tesco noticed that men who bought baby products often also bought beer or wine in certain stores. Turns out young fathers could be tempted rather easily into buying alcohol if you just put it next to the baby products. Well done for encouraging responsible parenting."

I don't get your point.

Isn't alcohol pretty much a requirement if you have kids to raise?

God knows..when I've been to people's homes that have kids, I can't take it too long without a drink or two, and I don't have to live with it 24/7.

:)

Re:...and so what? (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193775)

Isn't alcohol pretty much a requirement if you have kids to raise?

Yep. That's how my parents kept me quiet as a baby, too. ;)

Re:...and so what? (4, Insightful)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191479)

Is this an invasion of privacy? I don't think so.

See, the problem is that my privacy is none of your business. I don't care what you think is acceptable to me. Speak for yourself.

If a surfer visits your site, they have a certain expectation of viewing your content. Now you've decided to share that two-way communication with a hidden third party, who offers you a service (so far so good) in exchange for access to the visitors (that's the problem). Your visitors have not entered into any relationship with the third party, and are not getting any service from them. So why are you letting them get milked?

Think of it this way: Do you carry a hidden tape recorder in your pocket so that you can record all your conversations with your friends and colleagues, just because the weird guy down the street is paying you 10 bucks a week to let him listen in on anything he likes? Would you consider that acceptable behaviour from any of your friends and colleagues?

Re:...and so what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192227)

maybe for 100 bucks

Exactly! (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192633)

You're exactly right, your privacy is none of my business. So don't expect me to take care of your privacy!

If a surfer visits your site, they have a certain expectation of viewing your content.

Indeed. And they will get the content.

Now you've decided to share that two-way communication with a hidden third party,

I did no such thing. I placed a link in my page to the third party. Your web browser, running on your computer, executed the link to the 3rd party and provided the data.

who offers you a service (so far so good) in exchange for access to the visitors (that's the problem). Your visitors have not entered into any relationship with the third party, and are not getting any service from them. So why are you letting them get milked?

I'm asking them to provide their information to the 3rd party so that I can acquire valuable information (i.e., some idea who is using my website, and in what manner they are using it.) Whether they actually provide their information is entirely up to them and their web client.

And personally,

Re:Exactly! (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193251)

You're exactly right, your privacy is none of my business. So don't expect me to take care of your privacy!

The site is the one that is breaking people's privacy, therefore your reasoning is flawed: "don't expect me to take care of your privacy" implies that it is mere inaction on the site's part and that they thus aren't obliged to help. But it is actually active behaviour on their part - the referring of information on you - that violates privacy.

As to whether code is running on the client PC, just how active is the average person expected to be to protect their privacy. Someone walks down the street naked and ends up on YouTube, most would say they have some responsibility for that. Someone leaves a laptop with their browsing history on the train, well they were careless but it's not their fault as much if someone picks it up and reveals to the world their favorite porn sites. If someone fails to install a plugin that monitors for spy-sites and keep it updated with a list of such sites and then scripts something to remove calls to such sites when it finds them embedded in a visited page? Well at that point we have crossed the line where you can say it's the user's fault for not protecting their privacy.

Re:Exactly! (2, Insightful)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193709)

Now you've decided to share that two-way communication with a hidden third party,

I did no such thing. I placed a link in my page to the third party. Your web browser, running on your computer, executed the link to the 3rd party and provided the data.

Next time someone complains about legalese, think of this sort of shmuck.

Re:Exactly! (1)

tburkhol (121842) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194811)

Now you've decided to share that two-way communication with a hidden third party,

I did no such thing. I placed a link in my page to the third party. Your web browser, running on your computer, executed the link to the 3rd party and provided the data.

This is splitting hairs. By placing a google analytics web bug on your page, Google becomes your agent from the user perspective. They go to Your page, they expect, and accept, everything there as Yours. If you have a privacy policy that says you don't share any information with 3rd parties, you may feel secure with the legal nicety that you don't actively send any information to google, but your visitors will be confused as to how a 3rd party comes to know all about their visit to your site.

If I can use a /.-standard physical world analogy, imagine Borders tells you your purchases are private, but then dresses FBI agents up in Borders outfits & nametags and lets them take surreptitious photos of every book you look at. Technically, they've never told the FBI you were looking at "How to beat drug tests" "Koran" and "Anarchists Cookbook" but do you feel comfortable with the distinction?

Re:Exactly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28195215)

I did no such thing. I placed a link in my page to the third party. Your web browser, running on your computer, executed the link to the 3rd party and provided the data.

He has a point: if you simply run NoScript and block GoogleAnalytics this is a non-issue.

Captcha: Nonsense

Re:...and so what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192637)

I'm sorry, since when do you get to tell me what to do with my own website? If you don't like me using Analytics, then you're more than free to not visit.

Re:...and so what? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193133)

See, the problem is that my privacy is none of your business.

...

Your visitors have not entered into any relationship with the third party, and are not getting any service from them. So why are you letting them get milked?

You are quite correct, your privacy is none of his business, so why are you bitching at him for taking advantage of your lack of due diligence and responsibility for your own privacy?

Your privacy is not his responsibility.

Re:...and so what? (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193641)

You are quite correct, your privacy is none of his business, so why are you bitching at him for taking advantage of your lack of due diligence and responsibility for your own privacy?

Yeah, because that would be like criticising confidence tricksters for taking advantage of a person's trusting nature. Or condemning muggers for taking advantage of people who never studied the martial arts. What sort of word would we live in if we gave people a hard time, just because they don't give a wet slap about anyone other than themselves?

Seriously, I suppose it comes down to what sort of a net people want. I think the GP is asking a valid question.

Re:...and so what? (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193925)

If you walk around naked, you can't complain when people look at you.

Re:...and so what? (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194739)

If you walk around naked, you can't complain when people look at you.

On the other hand, just because someone is naked, that doesn't necessarily mean that staring at them is acceptable behaviour.

And, to be fair, this isn't just looking. This is more like taking photographs of the naked, without their knowledge or consent, and then to sell those photos to third parties.

I think that probably would be cause for complaint in anyone's book. Well, anyone not involved in the porn industry, anyway.

Re:...and so what? (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194947)

One more thing - the "naked" argument works (to the extent that it does) because people who choose to go naked in public are stepping outside the social norms.

The trouble is that the people who are "naked" to web bugs are the norm. And they have a reasonable expectation not to be spied upon.

Re:...and so what? (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192075)

the only thing it tells me that I couldn't discern from the server logs is where people link in from.

Let me guess, you forgot to turn on your referrer logging?

Re:...and so what? (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192369)

Now, this does mean that Google gets a record of when an IP address visited my server and what page they looked at. Is this an invasion of privacy? I don't think so. What's the worst that is going to happen? Google sells my browsing habits so that companies I already have a business relationship with send me targeted advertising? OH NO

Google doesn't sell that info. They use it internally to improve their advertising services, which in turn raises its value, and allows them to charge more for their services.

Microsoft and Yahoo sell stuff to the highest bidder. And I'm sure most other companies doing this are as well.

Thankfully privacy is one issue Google seems to be respecting. Thus far they haven't done anything nefarious with the info they collect. They even refused to turn tons of it over to the government.

Re:...and so what? (2, Insightful)

nitroyogi (1471601) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193633)

Google doesn't sell that info.

Thus far they haven't done anything nefarious with the info they collect. They even refused to turn tons of it over to the government.

Can you prove what you say? As authoritatively as you say it?

Google has brainwashed many people with its strangely inscrutable "Don't be evil" campaign. So much so that those folks start dreaming divine fantasies about Google's impeccable loyalty to its dear beta customers' rights online. And start making statements that make remote business sense but none too practical. Keep an open eye on both sides of Google. Its not a saintly or charitable venture. Its just lesser of the evils.

Re:...and so what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192401)

I don't want my friends to know about my Enzyte purchases, for example, but if I cancel my Enztye order and place a Capatrex order, what's the big deal if Enzyte sends me an email with a special offer to double my order for the same price?

Did you provide your personal information so that they could send you ads? Or was it cash in exchange for goods? How do they send "you" ads in a way your "friends" do not see? Do you have a housemate that sees your mail? Watches your DVR? Answers your phone? Shoulder surfs? What is the "big deal" if Enzyte sells the info to Pfzier (sic) for Viagra ads too? What is the big deal if the email used to track shipments gets sold to spammers?

The big deal is when you do not give expressed consent and your information provided for one purpose is instead used for another purpose. That is why I advise the following to protect your privacy:

A) Don't buy - copy (or steal)

B) If you do buy, don't give your info - Use a fictious entity (not another real person however - be very clear about that)

Re:...and so what? (1)

seramar (655396) | more than 5 years ago | (#28195363)

If I write an email to you, out of the blue, but it is personalized, it is allowed. I can not spam you - that is illegal and pertains to mass mailing using mailing lists and form letters. But if I sit down and take the time to write an email to you there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, nor illegal, even if we do not have a prior business or personal relationship.

Re:Guilty as charged (3, Insightful)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191817)

You do realize this already happens right? And stupid people play into it. Those retarded 'club' cards for every freaking grocery store, sporting goods store, (insert store type here) store. The price you see on the label is always the 'club' price, which you pay more if you don't use their 'club' card. They send you directed advertisements in the mail and design the store displays and advertisements to direct you to the place in the store where they think they can upsell you the most.

The only people turning paranoid are geeks too stupid to realize they have been able to do this for years and it doesn't just happen on the Internet. 'Web bugs' are nothing new, you've just been too dumb to notice them in the past.

'People' don't CARE if they are tracked. Slashdotters freak out about it. If people gave a damn they wouldn't be so happy to sign up for those cards. They KNOW they are being tracked cause most of them happily send you reports regularly telling you what you've spent your money on.

You guys need to pull your eyes off the monitor for a few minutes and stop thinking that everything on the Internet is new. Most of it isn't, not be a long shot, its just a variation on some scam from else where.

If you actually were worried about being tracked you'd use cash and never buy anything off the Internet.

Re:Guilty as charged (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192821)

If you actually were worried about being tracked you'd use cash and never buy anything off the Internet.

I do. My bank account is waaaay overdrawn to be of any use :)

Not true & especially 4 ANY "registered user" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192865)

"'People' don't CARE if they are tracked. Slashdotters freak out about it." - by BitZtream (692029) on Wednesday June 03, @12:26AM (#28191817)

That's NOT true, and yes, even in YOUR individual case... why?

Well, since you are a "registered user" here, you are FAR MORE EASILY TRACKED than I am in my using an "A/C" account (clicking on your username alone yields me an incredible wealth of information about you alone on this website in your post comments history & more, for instance).

APK

P.S.=> That's the ONLY reason(s) I do not become a registered user here in fact, but it is what I feel is a very good reason not to become one in fact... apk

Stupidity... (2, Insightful)

Velska1 (1435341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192973)

'People' don't CARE if they are tracked.

You may be right that most people don't. Most non-geeks I know have a hard time figuring how much their groceries are going to cost when our VAT rate goes down (now why is there VAT on groceries in the first place? Don't get me started...) or how much their paycheck is going to grow when the employer withholding tax goes down. They care what reality shows are most popular or who wins Idols or whatever.

But that doesn't change the fact that they should. It's one thing to be a member of a consumer co-op and buy stuff at member prices -- and another thing entirely to be looking for daily news, info about your or your friends' minor or major ailments, and have it all recorded forever in a way they are able to associate with your identity.

So Google has not been caught selling the info yet. They have, however, been forced by the DOJ to submit info about search terms and stuff. If Google's revenue takes a big hit for any reason, what's going to stop them from selling the info about the people who seem to spend a lot of time on Chinese dissident sites to the Chinese government? Or just to the highest bidder for whatever info they can offer?

Furthermore, imagine if a perfectly legal hobby were to be criminalized -- retroactively -- say, by a new government elected in a wave of frenzy about national security (totally hypothetical, I know but bear with me). Now if that had been my hobby, I would be a sitting duck for the newly created national security cop unit. I may be a perfectly law-abiding citizen perfectly willing to forgo a hobby if my government tells me it endangers the national security, but I would already be a criminal.

This is just an oversimplified example of what could happen. Much more complex, and at the same time impossible-to-win situations have happened many times over in different parts of the world since mid-1960s when I started following the news. To mention just one example from U.S. history (well researched, doesn't affect us today other than a warning example of just the kind of circs I describe), check out the Senator Joseph McCarthy crusade (and learn that he was just a front man for a lot of mean bullies, who wanted to do their bullying legally).

P.S. I have RefControl with Firefox, I use redirection for most of my systems that directs requests like web bugs to a dummy address etc. I don't do it for all of my systems all of the time, though.

Re:Guilty as charged (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193299)


We get it - we're a bunch of Cassandras.

Cassandra was also right.

Re:Guilty as charged (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193683)

'Web bugs' are nothing new, you've just been too dumb to notice them in the pst.

Actually, I noticed them in the past and I didn't like them then, either. Nice to see the bad news reaching a new set of surfers though.

'People' don't CARE if they are tracked

Actually, by your own argument, most people don't know they're being tracked. And in my experience, when they find out, a lot of them freak out. Which is more of less what you're seeing here.

Incidentally, why the quotes around "people"? Do you feel the word was poorly chosen? Who do you think this issue affects, if not people?

Re:Guilty as charged (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192805)

And I mean you can take them off later (delete the cookies and all that), but then every other store provides the exact same sticker and some require you to present the sticker at every counter for service. It's something that a paranoid would probably say already happens, but the fact is, that this is turning us *all* paranoid. I don't like being paranoid.

Sounds just like my credit card. Except it's not mandatory yet.

Re:Guilty as charged (1)

Sausage Nibblets (1469103) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194171)

On the other hand, Mr. President Obama has kept quiet on privacy, so we don't even know what his stances are on this issue...

What the fuck does Mr. Obama's stance on privacy have to do with this? He's the president, not king. He doesn't really have any say in the matter, believe it or not.

Re:Guilty as charged (4, Insightful)

lavacano201014 (999580) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191015)

Yeah, it's one thing if they stick a cookie on your computer saying "He logs in as lavacano201014, and he gets the password right", or "I've been here before, don't count me as a new visitor". It's like those events where they stamp your hand to show "You've paid, you just went outside for a smoke". It's another thing if they record personal information that you'd rather keep to yourself. It's like forcing them to tattoo your name and Social Security Number to your forehead and both arms. Do you really wanna wander around with "I'm John Johnson, my SSN is 555-55-5555"? That's my stance. Of course, if you really DO want to wander around like that, none of my business.

Re:Guilty as charged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28191141)

Hey, I am John Johnson and my SSN is 555-55-5555 you insensitive clod!

Re:Guilty as charged (1)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191677)

If you'd rather keep your SSN to yourself, then... don't enter your SSN on any websites?

Exploits aside, cookies can't be used to share information between websites, so even if a site you trust decides to do something retarded like store your SSN in a cookie, other sites can't access it.

Or was the reference to your Social Security Number just a bad example and you were really thinking of other things that can be automatically collected? Most of that isn't particularly private though, and can be altered if you have reason to think your OS or browser version or screen resolution are things you need to keep secret.

Re:Guilty as charged (2, Informative)

Aram Fingal (576822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28195577)

You're right but storing personal info in the cookie itself isn't the way it's normally done. More often, they store something like visitor#42383645934568125 which is a database key. Your personal info is in their database and not in the cookie. Part of the problem with web beacons is that they effectively allow different sites to share the same database key. This wasn't supposed to happen with cookies which are restricted to being read back only by the same site that set them in the first place. Web beacons get around this limitation by loading a portion of the site which you are visiting, even something as small as a one pixel graphic, from a common advertising agency site. Some of these advertising sites are backed by huge clusters and able to serve a bit of content to a huge percentage of sites on the internet. That's what the graphs about Google's reach are explaining.

Re:Guilty as charged (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28195415)

Of course by the time you wrote your comment you were aware of the fact, that URL shorteners have a preview function.
Like in http://preview.tinyurl.com/pleaseclickmeomg [tinyurl.com]

Defective by design (3, Insightful)

Torodung (31985) | more than 5 years ago | (#28190717)

The law: this is the thing that really deserves this tag.

Defective by design, my friends. You have no privacy from the powerful.

--
Toro

Re:Defective by design (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28190881)

My boyfriend isn't here to jack me off so can you stick my iPhone in my ass and jack me off?

Re:Defective by design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192553)

how is this marked troll?

Re:Defective by design (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192665)

Google is exerting its Pressure!

It's the INTERNET for crying out lud (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28190755)

What the fuck did you expect? If you want "privacy", stay home. Oh, wait.

Definition of Naivete: Find Pic of John Q Public (-1, Offtopic)

gpronger (1142181) | more than 5 years ago | (#28190905)

We had a president that wasn't having sex with the intern, just doing everything else.

The next one tells us that we're not torturing anyone, right after he re-writes the definition.

I guess the point is that if there's a will there's a way, particularly if there's gun's, sex, or money involved (not quite certain if I have the order right though).

I guess there should be some sense of moral outrage here, but I guess I'm all out of that.

Greg

We need to take care of our privacy. (5, Informative)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 5 years ago | (#28190925)

NoScript can stop most of the scripts running in the background when you visit a web page.
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/722

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (4, Informative)

AnalPerfume (1356177) | more than 5 years ago | (#28190987)

A decent cookie policy helps too. CSS Lite along with a "deny all cookies" default works wonders in that regard. Then just like NoScript you van allow them temporarily or permanently on an individual basis when a site you need demands them.

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (3, Informative)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191047)

There are three main strikes against noscript though... 1) it's irritating and doesn't necessarily protect against 1x1 pixel or iframe attacks anyway; 2) it sucks and breaks things like OpenID, which are necessarily cross site scripting; 3) the guy's a total fuck head (see adblock).

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (4, Informative)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191185)

1) Use adblock pro and it will whack most of those 2) You can enable sites one by one if you need OpenID, ReCAPTCHA, etc 3) This part is true :(

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (1)

BikeHelmet (1437881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192379)

Isn't that OpenID crap annoying? That was the deciding factor in me using Wordpress rather than Blogger.

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28193393)

Regarding 2) - huh? No, it does not break OpenID. I'm using OpenID quite regularly, and NoScript doesn't interfere with it.

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194627)

I imagine the OP meant when you visit an openID site you haven't been to before--then Noscript blocks it by default as a cross site thingie. Which you then whitelist and have no more problems with.

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28191515)

I prefer yesscript https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/4922

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (1)

brentonboy (1067468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191635)

noscript has lost my trust forever and i won't ever use it again.

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191829)

Yea, thats all fine and good, but contrary to popular belief no script doesn't prevent them from starting, sometimes it does, but not always, it is entirely possible for them to load and have you tracked BEFORE noscript has a chance to stop it.

You noscript people rant and rave about how awesome it is and have absolutely no clue how it works.

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (1)

vivaelamor (1418031) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193069)

Troll forgot to tick Post Anonymously?

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193735)

no script doesn't prevent them from starting, sometimes it does, but not always, it is entirely possible for them to load and have you tracked BEFORE noscript has a chance to stop it.

Which is one reason most the major offenders are disabled in my hosts file.

You noscript people rant and rave about how awesome it is and have absolutely no clue how it works.

What's the matter? Did NoScript steal your lunch money or something?

Re:We need to take care of our privacy. (1)

Cowmonaut (989226) | more than 5 years ago | (#28195659)

Alright, normally I steer clear of these little fanboi-type fights but was that last bit really necessary? Way to be a mature adult! Sure, the GP could of been a little more diplomatic in saying that a lot of NoScript advocates don't know what they are talking about (just like many fans of many other things, from OS to car analogies). He was abrasive, but he wasn't trolling and he wasn't starting a flame war like your inflammatory comment can be seen as trying to do.

Back on topic: NoScript is not perfect, but it can help if you want to deal with the baggage that goes with it. Either way if you want to be safest you have got to do what the parent said about using your hosts file as well. It is a lot of work to be safe and private on the Internet, especially as you get more cross site services and similar. This is why most people don't/won't/can't bother, and why we should be trying to make it so NoScript and the like are not necessary for a 'safe' Internet experience.

Communities are our one real strength as a species, and the Internet is a tool that embodies it entirely. Its in our best interest as a species to develop it so all can benefit from it.

one word (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28191025)

duh

Three cheers for the students (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191049)

very public spirited of them.

How Ironic... (2, Interesting)

lag10 (667114) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191093)

How ironic that a school without sufficient knowledge to protect its students from identity theft lectures the world on personal privacy.

A number of student Social Security numbers were leaked not too long ago.

Here's the article [yahoo.com]

Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised? (3, Informative)

swb (14022) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191155)

Why do we keep having studies like this? It's like having more studies to prove that gravity will cause a rock to drop on the ground; it's pretty well understood without having to have yet another study remind us that given even the slightest chance to lie, cheat or steal, corporations will willingly and vigorously lie, cheat and steal.

While I'm not "old" I am, at 42, at the point where I just tune out anything a corporation tells me. It's all bullshit. All of it. And I often ask myself why I don't make every attempt to rip them off as often and as completely as I can -- just fuck off being honest, all you get is ripped off anyway. There is no "fair" or "middle ground", it's just "how badly do you want to get lied to/cheated/ripped off?"

In spite of this and in spite of my equally strong cynicism that government can "fix" this, why don't we treat these corporate fucks properly?

For so many of these frauds, jail just isn't good enough, or it doesn't provide the right life lesson. These people need to know just exactly what the shit end of the stick feels like. Here's a suitable punishment for corporate malfeasance:

1) Corporate thief *and* immediate family, including wives divorced after the initiation of fraud, stripped of ALL personal possessions, property, real estate and financial assets. YOU MAY NOT EVER PROFIT FROM YOUR CRIME NOR ENRICH YOUR FAMILY. YOU HAVE LOST EVERYTHING. FOREVER.

2) Forced to live a residence in a neighborhood with at least 50% of the population at or below the poverty line. POVERTY SUCKS.

3) All family members required to work at a job which pays no more than 2x the poverty wage for whatever size family they consist. Any money earned over this amount is forfeited. YOU WILL NEVER GET AHEAD OR EVEN CATCH UP.

4) No financial or material support of any kind from the outside, including support in-kind (free rent, forgiven debt, etc). AND NOBODY WILL HELP.

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191789)

While I'm not "old" I am, at 42, at the point where I just tune out anything a corporation tells me. It's all bullshit.

Not trying to out-cynical you or anything, but who really tells you anything that isn't bullshit? Politicians and government? Right. Your friends? Doubt it. Scientists? Sometimes, but only because they know if they lie someone else will repeat their experiment and catch their mistake. It happens.

Seriously. You're 42. It's time to grow up, be a man and take responsibility for yourself, not depend on dishonest corporations or dishonest other people to take care of you. In this case, figure out how to block cross-site cookies, or block cookies all together. Learn how to use an anonymizer. Whatever it takes. This is something YOU can do. Stop relying on other people, and other people will stop taking advantage of you.

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192639)

not depend on dishonest corporations or dishonest other people to take care of you

Wait. Are you suggesting there are HONEST corporations?
Wow!
You are green, a bright flourescent green.

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192851)

Just as many as there are honest people. Have no idea what you mean by green, though.

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193019)

OK. Corporations are not human beings. Yes, of course, the law states they are people, blah, blah, but ultimately they are NOT human beings.
A psychological analysis of a Corporation as revealed in the book by same name states they are pathological liars, cheats and worse criminals who have no sense of honor, truthfulness, and honesty.
I don't blame them for it. Its their nature.
Why else would AIG want the money it donated to charity back to pay bonuses to its management? [huffingtonpost.com]
Why else would Monsanto try to override local laws that prevent GMO foods from being grown locally? [rense.com]
Why does Exxon STILL fight paying compensation for the Valdez disaster and get it overturned even after all these years? [abc.net.au]
Why do you think Time-Warner and others want to overturn municipalities from providing broadband to their cities and towns where Corporates have refused to set up shop? [engadget.com]
Am not paranoid or crazy, and am not part of the left-wing alliance stating ALL corporations are evil, etc.
Am just saying this is their nature: Selfish, Loathsome, cheat, liar and a thief if they can get away with it.

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193141)

You seem to have a pretty strong anti-corporation bias there. Have you thought of looking for any good things corporations have done? The things you've said could be said for basically any type of group of people.

As long as Americans are dishonest, you're going to have dishonest corporations. When was the last time you saw an honest person?

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (1)

Velska1 (1435341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193275)

You are, unfortunately, right in your assertion. Corporate behavior is a reflection of the values of the people with controlling interests in the corporation.

In addition, a corporation -- especially a big, successful one -- has often been built by people, who are especially willing and able to turn the trust other people place in them -- or the urgent need they have for their services -- to their own benefit. And this does not necessarily mean that they have been dishonest.

Combine this with the fact, that a corporation lacks a "human" face. You can't get in a heated argument with a corporation -- let alone have a reasonable discussion with it. You may meet service personnel, who are willing to engage in either, but the corporation? No. They dispatch an army of consultants, marketers or lawyers, who almost never treat you as a human being.

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193305)

In addition, a corporation -- especially a big, successful one -- has often been built by people, who are especially willing and able to turn the trust other people place in them -- or the urgent need they have for their services -- to their own benefit. And this does not necessarily mean that they have been dishonest.

You know it's weird, you're the second person this week who suggested that rich powerful people are more corrupt. I really don't think it's true. They are more powerful, so their crimes are able to affect more people, but then poor people do things like steal my geranium off my porch. Dishonesty is pretty far reaching, throughout all the social spectrum.

That Was Not What I Said (1)

Velska1 (1435341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193499)

I'm sorry for picking a nit, but I specifically stated that "...this does not necessarily mean that they have been dishonest."

The fact still remains, that beyond a great fortune there quite often is a well-hidden crime or at least unethical behavior. Not always; often.

Likewise, you are right that poverty is no guarantee of honesty, either. It's not about whether you're rich or poor, but how honestly you acquired what you have.

But there are volumes of examples of people, who are more willing to cut corners (for their own and their friends' benefit), rising to the top of any structure of power. Some are sociopaths, who are especially good at fooling people into thinking they are gaining their power or wealth unselfishly. And most people have a "default" trust for the wealthy and powerful.

And, again, that does not mean that all powerful, rich people are corrupt. I didn't suggest that, and now I'm spelling it out. And it has a corollary that poor people are not necessarily people of integrity (although my current poverty has at least something to do with my unwillingness to pull the trigger on a guy with a gun on his temple).

With all that, I try to give everyone a fair chance with me. It has hurt me as often as delighted me, but my life is better, if I'm not cynical.

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193675)

As i said earlier, i do NOT have a bias against corporations. Iam just saying as it is as an impartial, disinterested, unemotional observer.
What am trying to say here is people a.k.a human beings try to evaluate a Corporation based on their own sense of what's right and wrong.
That IS wrong when you are trying to evaluate a Corporation.
Its like trying to evaluate a shark on whether it is good or evil. Its meaningless and hell, it is wrong on many, many counts.
To understand and to evaluate a corporation, you need to understand its beginings and roots. Much like you evaluate Hitler and Stalin and Gandhi based on their roots.
A corporation is governed by a strict set of laws and regulations: these laws and subsequent judgements force a corporation to act in a certain way: maximising profit in any way possible; for its stock holders.
That is what the law states and that is the ONLY course of permitted action for a corporation.
Remember when Ford tried to make his Corporation do something altruistic? He was sued by stock holders and subsequently lost the case.
Why? Because it was interfering with the primary purpose of a corporation: Profits.
That is why Milton Friedman said that if Corporate Social Responsibility is really genuine, then the corporation is breaking the law.
To us, it may look cheap, and even downright disgusting if AIG wants to take back the money it donated to charities. From AIG's legal perspective, it is a sound decision: otherwise the company may be sued for donating public money to charities or worse.
Unless the law is changed, which changes the operating environment and rules for a corporation to make it more human, you cannot and should not blame a corporation for being "evil" or a thief. Because the thing they do is perfectly valid and if they don't do it, they will be sued.

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (1)

seramar (655396) | more than 5 years ago | (#28195593)

Seriously. You're 42. It's time to grow up, be a man and take responsibility for yourself, not depend on dishonest corporations or dishonest other people to take care of you. In this case, figure out how to block cross-site cookies, or block cookies all together. Learn how to use an anonymizer.

Only on Slashdot does blocking cross-site cookies and using an anonymizer make you a man.

Re:Lie, cheat and steal. Why keep acting surprised (2, Informative)

Jimmy_B (129296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191871)

Sorry, but the US Constitution expressly prohibits extending punishment for crimes onto family members. The most you could get is forfeiture of assets which a prosecutor could prove constituted stolen goods, and that wouldn't be nearly everything.

If you believe in rebirth, it is called Africa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192217)

... the punishment that you talk of.

Only the ignorant continue cheating, because tomorrow is your day of getting cheated.

How Did You Know? (1)

Velska1 (1435341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193013)

How in hell did you know so well what my life was like for 15 years? Well, still is, but #4 isn't true for us now...

Even whitehouse.gov has a web bug (5, Informative)

karl.auerbach (157250) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191195)

Even the Whitehouse.gov website has a 1x1 pixel web bug that is in violation of their own privacy policy, not to mention 5 USC 552a.

Re:Even whitehouse.gov has a web bug (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193821)


Webtrends for anyone who can't be bothered to check.

Ah....but can they break the privacy.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28191211)

....of the anonymous coward?!!!?!!

This is new?! (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191241)

ADVERTISERS are Anti-Privacy People!!! They would create massive databases tracking every single man woman and child on the planet if they could and many are still working on that very thing.

Google is an advertiser. When you break it down, Google's motivation is making money by selling advertisements in various forms and means.

Here's other news: Advertising WORKS!!! They wouldn't do all this if it didn't yield results. And that will never change. Our consumer culture is so developed that people can't imagine any other way of seeing the world they live in.

And here's an interesting aside -- according to my younger brother who recently went through law enforcement training informed the family of an interesting bit of trivia. He told us that the code word for "mentally retarded person" is "CONSUMER." He was not joking. Let that settle in... There are so many different areas where "consumer" is used to describe people and it makes you think doesn't it? We're all the brainless pawns in their business strategies and plans.

Re:This is new?! (1)

Mr. Jaggers (167308) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192289)

While, yes, the "consumer" thing is true, it's taken out of context. It's less of a "code word" than it is general term for anyone who uses mental health services. The full term is "mental health consumer", and refers to an individual who receives mental health services (like counseling, psychiatry, pharmaceuticals, etc., whatever the treatment is that they require). Also, it doesn't only refer to folks who are dealing with a developmental retardation (like Down's, etc.), but it could be clinical depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality, ADHD, or schizophrenia, etc.

The reason it has a more extreme connotation in your brother's experience is likely that during his training, he had a special class (or session at least) to teaching law enforcement how to better deal with situations involving really sick folks, probably dissociated from reality at least partially, probably off of their medications, and probably totally freaked out. In fact, lots of folks really are "consumers" in this sense... if he were to have to shoot & kill a hostile person in the line of duty, he'd likely have mandatory counseling, even if his coping skills are sufficient without the counseling. In that case, he, too would technically be a "mental health consumer". Not everyone using that term to describe themselves is necessarily a very ill person.

Anyway, a short, but reasonably accurate blurb is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_health_consumer [wikipedia.org] or, better, lots of good information (though some digging is needed to find good coverage of consumer theory, specifically) is at http://www.nami.org/ [nami.org] .

Not to detract from the privacy discussion... but the above discussion is actually somewhat relevant. To sum up the blurb, the term was coined in the '90s by folks who used mental health services to raise awareness of their needs; in particular, focusing on the fact that "mental health consumers" are required for the "mental health service providers" to even exist & stay in business. In particular, it can be really difficult to get attention paid to the quality of your treatment when "people think you're crazy" for example... (off topic, but stigma is a big problem in the mental health field as well). So, their status as consumers of services (being the client, patient, or what have you) can also be empowering in a capitalist sort of way, if applied correctly, and as a large, organized, and influential group.

Similarly, all of us who are exposed to unsavory advertising techniques are, indeed, also consumers of goods and services. We need to find ways to apply that correctly if we wish the market to conform to our privacy wishes.

Re:This is new?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192641)

great post, off topic ;), but great post

bad analogy time (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28191549)

claim that the sites do not share information with third parties, they do allow third parties to place Web bugs on their sites

So the hooker has a second customer behind the oneway mirror, and she's not "sharing" information about you because she doesn't supply notes with the second customer later?

Would this stand in court in the US? Presumably the lawyers who draft these statements base them on some sort of defensible argument.

Privacy is Possible (2, Informative)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 5 years ago | (#28191725)

If people are concerned about their privacy then why don't they use Firefox [mozilla.com] , AdBlock [mozilla.org] , Flashblock [mozilla.org] , and NoScript [mozilla.org] ? The truly paranoid can download and use Tor [torproject.org] as well. Do people have a right to complain if they aren't willing to lift a finger to protect themselves?

Re:Privacy is Possible (3, Insightful)

twostix (1277166) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192085)

"Do people have a right to complain if they aren't willing to lift a finger to protect themselves?"

Why yes, yes they do.

I Try To Do Both (1)

Velska1 (1435341) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193311)

As twostix said, yes, we do have the right to complain. It may not help, but we can complain.

I look at it this way: I do what I can, and then complain with the idea that I may not be the only one, who has noticed the problem. And there is an outside chance that someone will do something if enough people speak up.

To stay on the subject of doing something, we can add a filter [http://www.google-analytics.com/*] (the square brackets are here just to stop /. from treating that as a link) to Adblock Plus, and the browser won't be telling google that we're looking at this page.

Even Slash-dot now REQUIRES JS and sends Google JS (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192337)

Maybe someone mentioned this. But I didn't see it in the threads yet.

This last week our very host SLASH_dot started REQUIRING JS for slashdot.org and fsdn.com in order to see any threads posted. AND fsdn "transfers information" from Google-Analytics while loading even the headlines page.

Obviously those of you who protest the slimiest of tactics are giving this site a pass when they do NOT deserve it. Slash-dot must be getting something including $ fro Google for the information they are stealing from us.

And Slash doesn't even say JS needed. All you get is a message "Error from upstream server" Unless you allow JS.

Disappointingly even adding google-analytics to my firewall block list does not seem to stop the "transfer of information" from google by fsdn. :(

Re:Even Slash-dot now REQUIRES JS and sends Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28192661)

Have you tried a user-agent switching extension? I switch the user-agent to IE6 and /. seems to work fine now in Iceweasel 2.0.0.18.

Prior, I could not click on the story link only the comment total (which would not let me see the "Read more..." story portions). There is a lot of crappy shit that goes on here and if you are login-less like myself, it is worse. It seems every 6 months there is a new set of hoops to jump to make the site work marginally OK. Oh well - at least I don't feel guilty about using adblock : )?

Re:Even Slash-dot now REQUIRES JS and sends Google (1)

seramar (655396) | more than 5 years ago | (#28195621)

Oh well, that's called Web 2.0

Privacy Policy == Farce (1)

Inf0phreak (627499) | more than 5 years ago | (#28192493)

Privacy policies have been a farce ever since they were introduced (mandated by law?) in the US. I have yet to see one that didn't more or less say the same as Raymond Chen points out in this blog post [msdn.com] .

"We won't do anything illegal... except when we feel like it". There - boiled 99.9% of all privacy policies on the (US part of the) web down to one simple sentence.

google and privacy (1)

jaiteace (581678) | more than 5 years ago | (#28193313)

Google has a very simple mission. They want to know what you and your IP are doing. That's all. Give them that, and they own you and your activity on the internets.

To get at this simple little piece of info, web sites get cool stuff like googleanalytics (info already available via other tools). You say "Nice". Google says thank you very much for your kind words, we do this because we want to give back to the community. Yeah right.

Users get to use cool stuff like gmail (unfortunately very good, but lots of alternatives), and all the other freebies, search and all the rest. All brought together under that simple little cookie at google.com. Google: "we love building cool stuff. We call it giving back."

The real killer for me, the one that almost makes me wonder about mozilla and the supposed superstar salaries some of them get paid, is that firefox's "safebrowsing" is driven by ... yep, go take a look for yourself.

What do they say about hiring the fox to guard the chicken coop? Every request you put out gets checked out before you get there - Is it really safe for this dumb schmuck to go there?

Have you ever tried to disable safebrowsing? Are you mad?!

I could start getting paranoid about all of this, but actually I'm a trusting sort of person, after all, these are the guys that promised to do no evil.

Doubleclick (3, Informative)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28194001)

Ghostery found 1 web bug on Slashdot

Related (0, Troll)

fulldecent (598482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28195135)

For a related discussion of topics of Privacy on the web, including all original research, please see:

The Privacy Log: http://privacylog.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

noscript/adblock plus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28195149)

Does using noscript and/or adblock to block the web bug html and associated scripting effectively stop the tracking?

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