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Week 10: TrackMeNot

October 25, 2011
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I was listening Studio 360’s episode titled “surveillance” from 7 Oct 11 (http://www.studio360.org/2011/oct/07/), and in this episode they interview a privacy expert who created a Firefox app called TrackMeNot, http://cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot/. This app “protects web searchers from surveillance and data-profiling by search engines.” The basic idea is that as an individual surfs the web he/she acquires a collection of cookies that give hints as to his/her interests. What TrackMeNot does is create random search queries that obscure a user’s true interests with randomness so that search engines and targeted advertising cannot work for that individual because the picture created by the cookie history is random mishmash of stuff.

While we haven’t explicitly discussed privacy issues on the internet and in web design, I think this is relevant because we have been learning a lot about how an individual’s browser and a remote server interact with each other through our explorations of page design and specifically with more concrete interactions with php and javascript. I think we should be cognizant of these issues as budding librarians/web designers since user privacy is such a core philosophy of the library world.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 6:26 am

    Even though I use firefox for the course, I am pretty addicted to Google Chrome, even though I’m sure the privacy is a big issue with generated ads. I sort of wish Chrome had an extension like this, thouh I don’t think the google company would be too happy with it!

  2. October 26, 2011 11:37 am

    I agree – I’m using Firefox as much as possible, but have Chrome at work. It’s getting to be pretty annoying though: Google is my work email provider, and my personal email provider, and I can’t be logged into both from one browser, and I have a third Google Voice account – Google is dominating my work/life/email and does not want to relinquish a bit of control. Also, I’m fairly freaked out at the implications of an ad showing up in Google referencing something I just typed in a message, or a website I randomly visited. If they’re going to be tracking me, I’d prefer to throw in a few fake routes every once in a while. I think TrackMeNot sounds like a great tool.

  3. renemartini permalink
    October 26, 2011 10:54 pm

    I am with KB about chrome.. its freaking awesome how I can sync my browsing experience and information to my home computer.

    This tool is great but I am more scared for how social media gets free will of the information they want. In the case of Facebook how they constantly change their privacy policy that it makes users hard to know what changed. For example last round of Facebook updates left several users account set in public. This was a Facebook known bug that took about a week to fix. I need to add this to my firefox, along with banners-be-gone.

  4. October 27, 2011 2:34 pm

    Wow! This is a good one 🙂 Privacy is often at forefront of a librarians core values…some of you that have been around the library world for a while may remember a little thing called the Patriot Act which basically tramples privacy and many librarians were in an uproar about it. Yet what about privacy when you are just using your own computer? So many people dont even realize that their privacy is being violated from web browsers everyday. Mine probably is even as I write this reply 😉 Thank you for reminding us about our privacy rights on a computer and letting us know about a little app to help us with it!

  5. October 27, 2011 10:11 pm

    Like Alison says, it gets scary when Google starts modifying content and search results based on what you’ve been typing. I work at a state library where policy forbids us from installing anything on public terminals that requires us to agree to an end-user license (think South Park, Season 15, episode 1). This means no nifty browsers or TrackMeNot tools.

    To maintain patron privacy and keep searches “fresh,” we’ve made it a habit of dumping all the cookies on a daily, if not twice daily basis.

    I’m jealous of everyone who doesn’t have to live 10 years behind the times in their library.

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