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Amazon Snooping Your Surfing For Targeted Ads?

CmdrTaco posted more than 7 years ago | from the shoulder-surfing-retailers dept.

124

Jewfro_Macabbi writes, "Recently after browsing major online retailers for Bluetooth adapters, I went to Amazon.com to find front-page ads for, you guessed it, Bluetooth adapters. Disable cookies, the ads go away; re-enable cookies and the ads re-appear. The EULA is ambiguous as usual. Try it for yourself and see."

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124 comments

not the same experience (4, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039145)

I too tried to shop for bluetooth devices at a major online retailer... then I went to Amazon.com. Not a single reference anywhere to any bluetooth devices. For me the experiment ends there. I had cookies turned on (always do), and was logged into both sites with an account login.

Aren't "other" cookies supposed to be invisible to a domain application? I thought so. So, is there a possibility you are surfing at some retailer that has a partnership of some kind with amazon (many do), and hence the information is shared in a partnership, but not across the proscribed browser boundaries?

Known issue (5, Insightful)

XanC (644172) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039188)

He's not claiming Amazon hacked his browser. It's been known for ages that if two sites both use the same ad company to display ads, that your activity on both sites can be linked. He's saying Amazon is using these data to target ads on their front page.

I was looking at this the other day... (4, Informative)

Lord Prox (521892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039284)

I am building a website on website traffic tips n tricks and stumbled upon this...
Retargeting [retargeting.com]
I am 90% sure that this is what they are doing or some variation thereof. Inexpensive service that should work well.




Place a curse in the RIAA/MPAA. [i-curse.com]

Re:I was looking at this the other day... (2, Insightful)

jrumney (197329) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039394)

Inexpensive service that should work well.

Step 4: The consumer returns to your site to complete the sale.

Now you have the ability to send visitors directly to your "here is where we close the sale" page by doing some or all of the following:

* Send them directly to the ordering page of the product they looked at before leaving.

That should work well... if your intention is to make your potential customers think you are stalking them!

Re:I was looking at this the other day... (1)

Lord Prox (521892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039431)

OK, yeah. It is kinda creepy. But most of your average joe's won't get it and most folks that are looking to buy something won't/don't look that hard. Especialy for stuff less that 20-30 bucks. Impulse purchase range. Having the stuff they are looking for right on the front page is good for your business and easy/useful/valueable for the average Joe as well. What he was looking for came right up.

Re:20-30 bucks. Impulse purchase range. (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039891)

Wow. I thought america was going through tough economic times, with people taking 2nd jobs and stuff.
My impulse purchase ceiling is about £3 ($5). Maybe it is because i can remember when £3 bought 5 (6) gallons of petrol.

Re:20-30 bucks. Impulse purchase range. (2, Insightful)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#16041026)

Individual americans are going through tough economic times in large part due to a culture of irresponsible debt spending. Having a comparatively high ceiling for impulse purchases is part and parcel.

(Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone).

Re:I was looking at this the other day... (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039581)

I see the retargeting banner ads all over my traffic analysis site and was wondering if anybody here had actually tried it and what, if any, their results were.

Re:Known issue = ad.doubleclick.com (1)

vettemph (540399) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040866)

>>It's been known for ages that if two sites both use the same ad company...

and further more:
doubleclick is the plague you would be refering to. 'Everyone' is using doubleclick in order to share a common cookie. doubleclick is the one tracking you, following you and report back to everyone else. There are a few others of course, like tribalfusion, Fastclick, etc..
  Everyone should be using a host file to block these, and keep scripting turned off except for trusted sites. (Your bank, not myspace, youtube or yahoo)

Re:Known issue (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040897)

I would go to sites that had some code or other that would go to amazon, they would read my cookie and then feed a message to be displayed on that non amazon site. I don't think the site ever got any information but I suspect they got some sort of kickback from amazon.

I ticked me off enough I just have their cookies deleted automatically when the session is over.

Re:not the same experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039198)

Aren't "other" cookies supposed to be invisible to a domain application? I thought so.

Technically, they should be "invisible" to other sites. But in the past there have been reports of versions of Firefox with a bug that allows for cookies to be visible between unrelated sites.

To the best of my knowledge, browsers like Safari, Konqueror, Opera, Camino, Seamonkey, Galeon2, Lynx, and Internet Explorer have not experienced a similar bug. Consider the fairly wide use of Firefox, it could be that this gentleman was using a version that was susceptible to the aforementioned bug.

Amazon hosting? (4, Interesting)

Rosyna (80334) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039239)

It seems more like amazon is hosting these major retailer's websites. For example, if you go to target.com it says on the bottom right, "Powered by Amazon.com". Amazon has their hands in a lot of retailers pockets. Mostly because it is just easier to pay amazon to do it than it is to set it all up yourself. Especially when amazon.com is a "proven" website.

Re:Amazon hosting? (1)

inKubus (199753) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040358)

Yeah, amazon has pretty amazing fulfulment and warehousing. They carry almost everything so why not ship from them and make more money?

Re:not the same experience (1)

erasmix (880448) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039322)

I instruct Mozilla to ask me everytime a new cookie us comming in. I accept cookis from the stite I'm shopping at, but block cookies from outside and from sites like ads.site_Im_shopping.whatever. I also use ad block to block everything that is not relevant content. I can't stand ads and I dont wanna be tracked.

Re:not the same experience (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039332)

Aren't "other" cookies supposed to be invisible to a domain application?

Right. But not all cookies from a given web page necessarily come from a single domain. For example, if you browse a page from bluorus.com that contains a graphic served by amazon.com, you'll get cookies from both domains. Often the graphic is a "web bug": a 1 pixel by 1 pixel file whose only purpose is to create a tracking cookie.

Obviously this isn't going to happen unless the web sites you browse have an affiliation with Amazon (or whoever). So you and Jewfro got different results because you browse different web sites.

Note to editors: be more sceptical of scandals reported by users with handles like "Jewfro".

Re:not the same experience (1)

Nimloth (704789) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039764)

"Recently after browsing major online retailers for Bluetooth adapters, I went to Amazon.com to find front-page ads for, you guessed it, Bluetooth adapters. Disable cookies, the ads go away; re-enable cookies and the ads re-appear. The EULA is ambiguous as usual. Try it for yourself and see."
I think they took it off, cause all I see is ads for penis enlargement :/

Re:not the same experience (1)

Adumbration (912697) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039905)

I just tried this as well, and could not duplicate the poster's experience.

Amazon does display certain widgets to help you find related items. For example, they have:
- Recommendations based on products you have purchased, rated, etc., on Amazon
- Recently view items based on products you have browsed on Amazon
- Related items based on your searches on Amazon

To the poster: can you be more specific in what you did?

My guess is that you went to Amazon and either did a search or looked at a product, etc., and you just forgot. Don't forget that if you do a Google search and land on an Amazon page, then obviously that becomes part of your recently viewed items.

How long did it take you? (5, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039152)

How long did it take you to figure that out Jewfro_Macabbi?

To my end user (of Amazon.com) knowledge, they have been doing this for at least a couple of years. Of course, the problem with the EULA is that the cookie is set as soon as you visit unless you explicitly disable cookies.

Of course being anonymous is getting harder and harder these days (especially if you are surfing from a place that is having packets sniffed by someone like the NSA. (for kicks do a traceroute (*NIX and OS X, tracert on Windows) on NSA.gov from where you are and look for the AT&T hub that is splitting the traffic (The AT&T hub for my traffic is tbr1013801.dvmco.ip.att.net). I know my packets are sniffed coming from an edu domain as well.......

Re:How long did it take you? (4, Insightful)

cuban321 (644777) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039304)

Yeah cause you know... AT&T couldn't just be their upstream provider or anything. /tinfoil

Re:How long did it take you? (1)

BWJones (18351) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039551)

Actually, this is from a story that was broken some time ago and is commonly known about. See this article [wired.com] on Wired or this article [slashdot.org] on Slashdot.

Re:How long did it take you? (3, Insightful)

cuban321 (644777) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039614)

(Offtopic, but oh well I couldn't resist)

You seem to have a lack of understanding about how the Internet works. I go through qwest to get to /.-- that doesn't mean qwest is "sniffing" my traffic. It simply means qwest is a provider who is peered with speakeasy (my ISP) and savvis (apparently Slashdots' provider).

Do you really think the NSA wouldn't use transparent ethernet taps [snort.org] anyways? And do you really think the NSA would have all that traffic dumped back to "nsa.gov"?

Re:How long did it take you? (3, Funny)

Afecks (899057) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039335)

Wow, you mean when I go to www.nsa.gov my packets can be sniffed by AT&T and then given to the NSA? What kind of twisted Orwellian nightmare has this world become?!

Re:How long did it take you? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039793)

I've seen this bullshit story before, and there's a huge problem with it. If AT&T is providing the NSA with their backbone connection, then anyone who visits www.nsa.gov will be going through AT&T. How else would your traffic reach their site if it doesn't go through their backbone provider?

If you really want to see if your traffic is going through AT&T, then you have to determine if they're YOUR backbone provider. To do that, you need to find a site that you know isn't downstream of AT&T, then traceroute to it. If your traffic still goes through AT&T, then they're your upstream provider. And that isn't a completely reliable test, since some ISPs have more than one upstream and route traffic on the one that is most efficient, depending on where those packets need to go. To really make sure, you need to traceroute to several different sites. Watch the results of each traceroute. The first hops will usually not change, unless, as I said, your ISP is multi-homed. What will change is the latter part of the results. The change will occur at the point where your ISP's backbone provider peers with the provider serving the site you are trying to reach. Now, just because YOUR backbone isn't AT&T, this doesn't mean your traffic isn't being sniffed when it hits their network on the way to the site you're trying to reach. This also assumes that other providers didn't also cooperate with the government, and, frankly, we don't know the answer to that.

There's nothing wrong with being concerned over this, but, for God's sake, at least know what you're talking about before spouting overly simplistic tests that reveal nothing.

Old cookie (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039164)

Are you sure you didn't already have a cookie from Amazon from a long time ago? You certainly seem like a retarded asshole to me.

MOD PARENT UP (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039187)

This is the worst slashdot 'article' ever.

Re:MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039247)

I agree. The language in the GP is a bit unnecesary but the editor who contributed the article needs to do better. Mod up the GP to set an example.

JEWS DID STEVE IRWIN!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039168)

The mossad used a radio controlled stingray to assassinate Steve Irwin!

How come 500 jews stayed home from the beach Sept. 4th?!?!

How was this accepted? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039180)

The only way amazon could know you were looking for an item would be if they themselves set the cookie. I think you'll find one of the retailers you visited was an amazon shop or the like. I don't use these 'one-click' pioneers myself but this is just bullshit!

Re:How was this accepted? (1)

Jewfro_Macabbi (1000217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040154)

I actually did a more thourough test. I did not just "browse" major online retailers. I went shopping online for Jihad videos (just to see), lo and behold when I return to Amazon I am offered books and films about Islam. I may also be getting a visit from the secret police soon, but hey...

Re:How was this accepted? (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040538)

Can you provide some links to the websites you went to?

Amazon Snooping Your Surfing For Targeted Ads? (-1, Troll)

sjg (957424) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039189)

Of course they are! F$%^ing DUH!

Jewfro_Maccabi? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039205)

Um, so are we posting "stories" from anti-Semites now on Slashdot? This site has sunk to a new low.

Re:Jewfro_Maccabi? (1)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039246)

There is nothing anti-semite about the nickname.

Jewfro = A type of hairstyle.
Maccabi = Courage, Victory, Success.

Re:Jewfro_Maccabi? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039361)

This guy has a long history of anti-Semetic comments on Slashdot. Check his post history.

A9 or Alexa Toolbar (4, Informative)

HTMLSpinnr (531389) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039221)

I wonder if the original submitter happens to browse with the A9 [a9.com] or Alexa [alexa.com] toolbars enabled? Both are subsidiaries of Amazon.com [amazon.com]. One would need to review their EULA's though to see if said info can be used to target shopping ads from their own site.

Re:A9 or Alexa Toolbar (1)

Jewfro_Macabbi (1000217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040134)

No, I don't have either, and wouldn't. It's not that Amazon set a cookie, it's that they obviously are browsing through other cookies, propably looking for keywords to target ads.

Re:A9 or Alexa Toolbar (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040436)

it's that they obviously are

Why is it "obvious"? They're doing something that's not feasible unless they own or are affiliated with the retailers you visited. When I read what you said, that was my "obvious" conclusion, not "OMG, they're snooping, it's obvious".

Re:A9 or Alexa Toolbar (2, Insightful)

Jewfro_Macabbi (1000217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040956)

I went and visited foreign based Islamic web sites for products, and Amazon recommended Islamic books and films after. I'm not seeing it as likely Amazon has partnerships with these companies....

Re:A9 or Alexa Toolbar (2, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040796)

While toolbars are the logical explanation, it could be that this person normally runs with cookies wide open. This means that the web usages is being tracked by the affiliate cookies. Though cookies are set up to be read only by the site that set them, most sites get around this by having double click, 2o7, etc set root tracking cookies. Therefore the average person, lets say the majority of the majority that still run IE wide open, is well tracked. It would be trivial to expand this to coded shopping categories. For the average user it might be a valuable service, and others should learn to accept only root cookies.

Buy It On.... (4, Funny)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039244)

While searching a bit torrent site for old episodes of La Femme Nikita, I was regaled by an ad which read:
"Can't find La Femme? Buy it on eBay!"

Really. Just a rental as per usual, or an all out purchase?
Can I take it for a test drive?
The shipping would probably be horrendous. I'll bet they sell them "pick up only". Which is, after all, the usual way. So who needs eBay?

Re:Buy It On.... (1)

gbulmash (688770) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039461)

"While searching a bit torrent site for old episodes of La Femme Nikita, I was regaled by an ad which read: "Can't find La Femme? Buy it on eBay!""


Of course this is Google AdSense (or possibly Overture) trying to provide keyword-targeted ads, based on your search term. The ads probably aren't even placed by EBay. If you click, some EBay affiliate pays Google some small fee, and you go to EBay tagged with an affiliate code. If you buy anything on EBay, they get a piece of the listing and final value fees charged to the seller, plus if you're new to EBay, they get a new customer bounty.

Using pay-per-click advertising to drive traffic to merchants where you get an affiliate payment is a narrow-margin business and requires very smart tweaking and tuning of your keyword selections and bid amounts, but if you can do it at a high enough volume, you can make some serious coin.

- GB

Caveat Emptor (1)

Ugly American (885937) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039478)

Really. Just a rental as per usual, or an all out purchase? Can I take it for a test drive?
Tough call... rental is expensive, but they tend to develop unexpected issues after about three to four years or so. Perhaps lease to buy?

And on a serious note, I've been wondering where a certain tracking cookie was showing up from, but never quite got motivated enough to hunt the site down. Well, I just swept my system with Spybot S&D to make sure it was clean, went to Amazon.com, re-ran the search, and... lo and behold, I have an Aornum tracking cookie again.

It's not a big deal to me; I've bought dozens of things from Amazon.com and marked hundreds more in the recommendations service, so it's not like they don't already have a database on me.

Re:Buy It On.... (1)

zxking (777919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039504)

Well, you could also watch the old episodes of La Femme Nikita for free

in their entirety, on AOL's broadband TV channel In2TV [aol.com]

It's actually... (2, Funny)

ericdano (113424) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039253)

It's actually a Ninja named Roger [askaninja.com] who's pissed at him. He's waiting for the author to click on the wrong link.

And?? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039265)

Hey nitwit, do you want random stupid commercials or commercials that you might actually be interested in?

Personally if I'm have to watch commercials (for free programming or whatever) then I damn well would rather watch something that might interest me.

Re:And?? (1)

causality (777677) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039817)

No commerical ever interests me. When I am making a purchasing decision, I seek out unbiased sources of information. All commerical fail that requirement.

The only thing that amazes me is that people respond to advertising so well as they do.

my test (2, Interesting)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039293)

After clearing my cache/cookies/etc, I closed and then reopened Firefox. I went to google and did a search for "bluetooth adapters." I middle clicked on everything on the results page except the amazon.com link. I then opened a new tab and went to amazon.com. They wanted to sell me LCD TVs, an electric toothbrush, some DVD box sets, iPod and cell phone cases, purses and messenger bags, and some watches. No bluetooth devices at all. Go figure...

Re:my test (1)

Gemini_25_RB (997440) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039345)

Same for me. Except there were a _lot_ of sandals on the page too. Who knew sandals came in bluetooth variety?

Re:my test (3, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039379)

I tried it again cos I like repeatability. This time I also clicked on all of the google "sponsored links." This time amazon wanted me to buy a Creative Zen, a smattering of sandals (guess it's time to clear out all those summer sandals), some Sony hifi stuff, pants and dresses, more shoes, and some more watches. Still no bluetooth stuff. However, if I click the amazon link from my bluetooth search and then open a new window and go to amazon.com via the address bar, the front page is chock full o' bluetooth adapters (with some sandals and watches at the bottom). Clearly Jewfro clicked on an amazon or target link earlier in his journeys in the tubes.

MOD PARENT INSIGHTFUL/INFORMATIVE (1)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039457)

This is actually a) very useful, b) very clever on Amazon's part, and c) not at all slimy. IMO at least. Kudos to their web developers for making a relatively simple (technically speaking) mod that dramatically increased their store value to most people... at least, if you ignore the ultraParanoid amongst us.

Re:MOD PARENT INSIGHTFUL/INFORMATIVE (1)

causality (777677) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039949)

Kudos to their web developers for making a relatively simple (technically speaking) mod that dramatically increased their store value to most people

Yes, because heaven forbid that people should objectively evaluate their own needs and use basic research skills to find the products and services that are most likely to meet those needs. Much better to have a bunch of bought-and-paid-for messages screaming at us to tell us what we need and what we should want and how we should spend our money. Oh, and targeting these advertisements means that they can more efficiently tell you what you should want and need? And are more likely to be rewarded for doing so? Apparently the sheeple have spoken.

Realistically, the only entity for whom this increases value are the shareholders of Amazon.com. I certainly don't need to be told what's good for me or how I should make economic decisions, and knowing that I may have been shopping around for a good Bluetooth device (or whatever) does absolutely nothing to change this basic fact. How much less would we pay for everyday goods and services if sizable portions of every dollar spent did not go towards these marketing budgets? I wish we could get rid of this idea that intrusive advertising benefits anyone other than the advertisers. If you feel a need to track your customer's habits and otherwise keep tabs on them, it is because your model is fundamentally flawed and the "need" to do this is an effort to work around this fact.

A much better model for advertising would be, let's say, the yellow pages. You know what you you are looking for and you search a directory to see who is offering it and for how much. Anything more involved than this is intrusive and based on the expectation that we are all too stupid to make our own decisions -- and oddly enough, you tend to get what you expect.

For this reason, if I see something advertised widely (and particularly if the ads are especially annoying), and there is a competitor who does a better job of allowing the quality of their products to speak for itself, I make it a point to never buy the one that is more widely advertised. This usually saves me money and always gives me the satisfaction of voting with my feet by not supporting marketing practices that are not in my best interests.

Re:MOD PARENT INSIGHTFUL/INFORMATIVE (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040286)

Damn! Overreact much? All he's saying is that it's nice that if you looked at something on Amazon, that when you go back to their site the next day, they present you with some of the things you looked at before (isn't that one of the purposes of cookies in the first place?). As for Jewfro's claim that Amazon is sniffing other site's cookies, I'm ridiculously skeptical of it, mainly because I've tried the exact test I've outlined above several times on different machines (different OSes and browsers) and consistently get the same results I've mentioned above. Until I see reports from others verifying Jewfro's claims, I'll happily ignore them...

Re:MOD PARENT INSIGHTFUL/INFORMATIVE (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040450)

Careful - search/replace Google in your comment, and you'll have people running to their defence! ;)

Final result? (1)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040277)

Were you totally offended and disgusted because they showed you stuff that you were just looking to buy (hypothetically) a few minutes ago?

I don't get it... we all love computers and the Internet until they do something useful? I understand the scare, but it isn't there. The scary part would be if Amazon just sent you a bluetooth device and charged you for it. "We knew you'd be wanting this!"

I just wish they would sell these technologies to porn marketeers. I know someone, somewhere already has a database of the things I like. Start making recommendations on things I've not seen or heard of yet!

Re:Final result? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040376)

Ummm, nope, not offended in the slightest. The final result was that the Amazon page is behaving EXACTLY the way I thought it would. It's not sniffing cookies from other sites. They're simply tracking (via their own cookie) the stuff that I looked at previously. They've even gone so far as to include a "Your recently viewed items" section at the bottom of the front page. If I clear out my cache and cookies and go to their page, they present me with a random sampling of various items that they sell. It's exactly what I'd expect them to do.

Simple solution (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039327)

A browser feature to block cookies that either: a) originate from a different domain than the top-level page or b) ignore cookies sent with non-HTML pages. I got the latter idea from CGIProxy.

Firefox doesn't seem to have anything like this. Internet Explorer can be configured to block all "third-party" cookies. Opera doesn't appear to have anything like this either.

Of course with Firefox you can get rid of the cookies as a side effect if you use Adblock or otherwise block ads.

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039364)

a) originate from a different domain than the top-level page

What is the "for the originating site only" checkbox for in Firefox then?

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039447)

I think the following option in Firefox blocks third-party cookies?

Tools | Options | Privacy | Cookies
Allow sites to set Cookies
  [] for the originating site only

Re:Simple solution (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039833)

Firefox doesn't seem to have anything like this. Internet Explorer can be configured to block all "third-party" cookies. Opera doesn't appear to have anything like this either.


You know, it's amazing what you can find when you check the Cookies options/preferences when looking for Cookie settings.

Firefox 1.5: Tools, Options, Privacy, Cookies, "for the originating site only" checkbox

Opera 9: Tools, Preferences, Advances, Cookies, "Accept only cookies from the site I visit" radio button

Re:Simple solution (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040449)

I didn't say Firefox 1.5. Firefox 2 lacks the options you described, and I can't figure out what the about:config variable name for it is. I managed to look right over that Opera one (didn't realize it was what I was looking for).

I Found Out The Hard Way (1)

FreeRadicalX (899322) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039338)

I found out about the in the worst way possible a few months back. Me and a buddy were searching for artwork by Stephen Gammell [google.com], the illustrator of those infamous creepy Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark books. It was late at night and we were getting creeped out just looking at the artwork. But imagine then, going to Amazon to buy one of the books only to find that THE BOOKS ALREADY KNEW WE WANTED TO BUY THEM, and had marched to Amazon's front page to greet us with their hideous covers before we even got there.

Needless to say, no books were bought that evening.

Re:I Found Out The Hard Way (1)

DrunkenTerror (561616) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039377)

Where my pops worked recently, a guy had a heart attack. They knew CPR and kept him going, but couldn't get his heart to beat on its own. The next day I went to amazon.com and the front page ad was for a defibrilator [amazon.com].

True story.

it's called the internet (1)

Wannabe Code Monkey (638617) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039352)

What, are you new to this whole internet thing? Of course online marketers store your browsing information and sell it, that's how they exist. Are you also suprised at where all those 2o7.net cookies came from, and confused as to why some sites need to load images from dozens of different servers?

Of course, it could also be that you're the kind of person who shops for things like bluetooth adapters on amazon and other sites in the past. So when you went back to amazon during this session they were using your past browsing on amazon to suggest something that you actually need.

Re:it's called the internet (1)

Jewfro_Macabbi (1000217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040179)

I wasn't going to Amazon to shop, but to look up some info on a book. I've never bought any bluetooth from Amazon. I also did a more thourough test. I went browsing round and about online for Jihad videos for a while. Then when I return to Amazon and check my recommendations, lo and behold this time I was offered books and films about Islam... This is not just about "Amazon" setting cookies, duh I knew that. This is about the potential amazon is searching through other cookies on my machine for keywords to target ads.

I for one.. (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039353)

.. think that trying to sell you exactly what you're looking for is a dispicable business practice and ought to be outlawed immediately!

But seriously, maybe when you enabled cookies Amazon recognized you from a previous visit and through the magic of their recommendation engine, perhaps based on a previous purchase where other customers who bought the same item also bought a bluetooth adapter, guessed that you might in fact be looking for a bluetooth adapter.

Porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039359)

Is there any way to turn this off? Apart from removing cookies?

Ages ago I brought a friend a book on giving the best blow job ever and now I always get recommendations on similar books. It's well embrassing

Re:Porn (1)

Ugly American (885937) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039568)

Try going to "improve your recommendations," find the book in the listing of your purchases, and uncheck "use this product to make recommendations."

Targeted Marketing Is GOOD (1)

bziman (223162) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039369)

Okay, so I don't necessarily like having records of my browsing habits stored by databases that can later be subpoenaed by the government, but it's basically unavoidable -- I know I keep extensive records of my site's visitors. And the privacy issue is largely secondary -- Amazon isn't interested in stalking you, they're interested in learning your buying habits to improve their own profits. The funny thing is that the best way for them to improve their profits is to sell you more stuff, and that means out of their millions of products, they need to choose carefully to show you the few products you're going to buy.

I wish that marketing was even more strongly targeted than it is. I like being shown advertisements for products that I actually want. I don't need to see ads for Viagra, Women's Hygiene, or the latest carbon fiber golf clubs. Amazon knows to show me ads for wireless routers, the latest Harry Potter books, and Armani tuxedos. I can't wait for TV to catch up with my online experience.

--brian

Re:Targeted Marketing Is GOOD (1)

Patik (584959) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040909)

I can't wait for TV to catch up with my online experience.
Too late, we already moved away from that with Tivo. And thank goodness for that.

Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039372)

Search the web for things that you do not need.

and the problem is? (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039393)

I went to Amazon.com to find front-page ads for, you guessed it, Bluetooth adapters. ... At which point, you immediately died from the terrible harm that this caused you?

my results (1)

gsn (989808) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039435)

Coincidence? - I had one hit and four misses. Looked for HDTVs and amazon matched, but they failed on cellphones, laptops, my textbook for this semester, the godfather dvd collection. Went to google each time, searched for item, went through a few links (4-5) and then went to amazon. Went to bestbuy for everything but the textbook. Cookies are accepted for session until I close firefox. JS and flash are blocked but I doubt that matters. Need a lot more data before can conclude anything one way or another.

Another test - clear all cookies and hit refresh a lot. Amazon seems to throw up the same links a fair bit - slippers and sandals, clothing, watches, jewellery, HDTVs, bags and luggage and a few dvds. The HDTVs popping up here is telling. Might be interesting to also get a new IP address each time and then refresh though I'll leave this to some of you who have a bit more time.

Re:my results (1)

Jewfro_Macabbi (1000217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040218)

Couple things I noticed. Look under "my recommendations", and you'll find a more complete list of your browsing experience. I also did a further more obscure test. I went online browsing for Jihad videos, and lo and behold when I returned to my recos a bit later I was offered books and films on Islam.

Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039438)

Just use Browzar.

Noticed this a while ago... (1)

Ungulate (146381) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039492)

I was googling St. Malachy's prophecy, an alleged 12th century document fortelling the rest of the Popes until the end of time. Went to Amazon a few minutes later, and a book on the subject was on the front page. I think that's a bit more unusual than the consumer electronics tests that people are trying out here.

Very misleading (2, Interesting)

bill0755 (692856) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039530)

Your claim definitely scores high for tapping into paranoia of cookies. Unfortunately, the only way Amazon knows you are looking for bluetooth adapters is if you visit their site first. This may have happened by way of a search result. Is this supposed to be surprising?

Nice try though. Cookie paranoia is a bit worn out for me.

Re:Very misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16039588)

Nothing misleading and in the last two days my google searches seem to show up in amazon !

Re:Very misleading (1)

quantum bit (225091) | more than 7 years ago | (#16041375)

If Amazon is high up on the results list and Firefox is doing prefetching on the top few links, might that be how the Amazon cookie is getting set?

You must be new here. (1)

scdeimos (632778) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039573)

Welcome to the internet.

Amazon uses ATDMT.com to serve ads. The sites you were searching for Bluetooth gear on were also using ATDMT.com to serve ads. It's not Amazon that knew you were looking for Bluetooth gear, it's ATDMT.com.

That's why they're called "Tracking Cookies."

Re:You must be new here. (1)

Jewfro_Macabbi (1000217) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040261)

It's still creepy. I also searched for more obscure items at other sites, not "ATDMT.com" members, I searched for stuff like Jihad videos, and when I returned to amazon I got recos for books and films on Islam....

News? (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039607)

Surf tracking and targeted ads are a way of life. There is no privacy online. Get used to it.

Re:News? (1)

causality (777677) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040028)

Surf tracking and targeted ads are a way of life. There is no privacy online. Get used to it.

Did it ever occur to you that this "lie down and take it" attitude is mostly responsible for the current situation? For every measure there are countermeasures. Adblock and its companion Filterset Updater are two (of many) which happen to be very effective, especially when combined with restrictions on cookies. And remember that at the end of the day, it is we who buy things from companies which employ these practices who are ultimately responsible for this situation. Companies do whatever rewards them with profits in the marketplace. I submit that the current situation is caused mostly by the apathy that you proclaim and the failure of most people to take a principled stand on much of anything.

Re:News? (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040562)

I agree that some issues have to be fought for, but technological reasons necessitate an online identity. Without your IP, cookies, SSL, etc., you could not make secure purchases, or be trusted to sell something or give information.

You cannot hide your normal activities in real life, and you cannot online, if you expect to be able to do things that require an identity or if you want the "online experience". It is a way of life, because we have chosen it.

Everyone loves Google's services, but they sacrifice their online privacy for it. People choose convenience over privacy. You can have privacy if you so choose, but most people have shown, by their actions, that they would rather have convenience.

Now, I do block some ads, but they do power a majority of online conveniences, and you can expect to pay for everything online if everyone blocks ads. So it is your choice, cheap/free and convenient, or private and expensive?

This helps me (2)

a_greer2005 (863926) | more than 7 years ago | (#16039754)

I can clearly see the bad implecations here, but as a responsable user, this has helped me over the past few months: I look for an item on Target, walmart, froogle, whatever, then go to amazon and it is right there, no searching needed. This is not good privacy wise, but pretty conveniant for those of us who delete cookies at responsable intervals (read weekly or more).

3 ways possible (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040580)

1) The retailer is using Amazon software/ The retailer is part of Amazon
2) Amazon is sniffing the search URL you came from
3) Amazon set a cookie

Cookies can only be read by the site that set them. Maybe you are clicking on Amazon ads on the retailer site.

Off topic, but a comment about privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16040592)

Privacy is a big issue. I don't know what's going to happen in the future. One thing that bugs me is how I think Google displays text advertisements of the major metropolitan of which I live near. I don't think I ever searched on Google using the city I live near though. Maybe it's my imagination.

Is this the same thing as Google's "Smart Sense"? (1)

wwiiol_toofless (991717) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040652)

Iirc Google made headlines a while back about targeting users with ads based on their activity. Isn't this the same thing?

There's a engineering/math class about this. (1)

DoughBunny (1000367) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040682)

It's called Data Mining. Most universities with a statistics/OR/IE/FE department teach data mining. Amazon had LOTS of affiliates, or companies they work with to collect data. (review sites, other sites that sell items, etc). You probably visited one those. -DB

Perhaps slightly different... (1)

douglaid (897645) | more than 7 years ago | (#16040763)

I went to a site a while back and saw a little graphic saying "Hello Doug. Guess how we know your name."

It was a link to amazon.com using my registered name there. Harmless enough, but still a potential security leak.

Happened to me too (1)

foobarb (659413) | more than 7 years ago | (#16041251)

I noticed twice in the last week some strange ad behavior on Amazon.

The first time, I'd been looking at DVD players via search on Google (FireFox on OSX, not logged in), then later that day when I went to Amazon (not logged in) the front page of Amazon showed me DVD players. I thought perhaps there was some unhealthy cookie sharing going on.

Then later in the week I'd been at Amazon (not logged in) looking at books on a topic I didn't want in my recent history or interested-in lists. I left Amazon, used FF to "clear private data" and went back to Amazon and logged in. There were my dang recent searches. So what's up with that? Have they added IP matching, or is FF OSX not as good at dumping my personal data as I'd like?

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