Friday, November 14, 2008

Using Site Meter - Privacy Issues involved

The culprit cookie on my PC

I added Site Meter to my web page just three or four days ago. I found the the service very good and useful and gives variety of kind of information about your visitors. I got a bit interested and decided to do more research on Site Meter. The first few hits and I got something fishy. The Sitemeter copies some tracking and advertising cookies on the user's machine. Before beginning the discussion let's get a wrap-up of what are cookies.

Cookies are the information that a website stores on the visitors machine. Its just a string of characters that identifies you to the website. They are used to authenticate a user, session tracking(i.e. transaction time, cookie valitidity etc.) and remembering preferences of the users such as the theme you used on your social networking site etc. Cookies are pretty harmless by which I mean they aren't spywares (keyloggers etc.). Also a site can't read a cookie stored by another site. There are some tracking cookies which are used to track the habits of visitor.
Here's a normal function of cookies:
1) Visitor's browser requests a web page to the server
2) Server sends the requested page alongwith a cookie.
3) Browser sends a request for another page alongwith the cookie
However, third party cookies do have privacy concerns. Advertisements on websites are generally third-party advertisers. Means same advertisements on 2 different sites are provided by same advertiser. Which means they can track you when you navigate from one site to another.

The Site Meter stores such a tracking cookie called on the visitors machines. Site Meter is basically used to track the visitors to your site. But what's happening is the above cookie is used to track you and your visitors and this data is provided to the advertising company so that they can provide relevant advertisements (ofcourse Site Meter gets paid for this) . The advertising company can track every single of your clicks, websites visited overtly or covertly, your surfing habits. Does Site Meter include this in the Terms of Agreement? You can read more here. Infact, this story is about a year and half old and the cookie is still being used. I've switched to Statcounter (didn't find any such cookie in Statcounter). Google Analytics is another option.

The truth is, many companies including likes of Google, Microsoft store data about their visitors to improve their services. There are huge databases which store user's surfing habits. Data mining is done on this information, which is used to analyze customer behavior and draw marketing strategies.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Last Laugh... Tigers feed on the Kangaroos

"Damn... What am I gonna tell back home???"

The Bird's Eye - Reclamation

The fiercely competed cricket series between India and Australia has concluded today, with India snatching the Border-Gavaskar Trophy convincingly 2-0. As Hayden said, it was indeed like "two hungry dogs" facing each other. I'd always liked the cricket quality between these two sides, it transcends even the Indo-Pak rivalry. It's been a real treat. Also, Punter was chirping quite a bit before and throughout the series.

Today's day was an absorbing one. Kangaroo's desperately hopping towards the target of 382. It would have been wise to play a steady the 1st session with minimum damage. Instead it was a wild gung-ho right from start (needless to say I was happy for every blunders they committed). Hussey's dismissal started the debacle, getting caught at slips to a top spinner. Then went Haydos, afterwards was a procession of Aussie batsmen joining their team "mates" in the hutch for a cool beer! The deliveries plunging from the rough ruffled the feathers of the batsmen. The strategy of 8-1 field was also brilliant one, catching the Aussies off-guard. The main difference between the sides, where India gained was indeed with their fast bowling. Fast bowlers made inroads and spinners finished the rest. The Aussies, however struggled to penetrate the Indian openers. There was lot of talk that Australia's main strength is fast bowling but they failed miserably, Binga, Johnson, Watson, all alike. Krejza surely was the missed trick. And not to mention, Singh was King again today!!!! Delighted to see his doosra again...

Most of the stadiums during the series were empty. Seeing the amenities (or lack of them) in the stadiums and the scorching heat, I guess its better to watch it at home! Neither do the ticket prices help. The BCCI should at least provide shades and basic amenities in the stadiums.

Its been the last hoorah for Kumble and Ganguly too. Kumble has rendered the Indian subcontinent a frontier that has never been won consistently, getting his victims most times in 1st 3 days of match being lbw and last 2 days caught by bat-pads. For 18 years this has been going on... yawn!!!! Ganguly taught India how to win abroad and made it a habit. We'll certainly miss these two fellas.
On Aussie side, I guess this will be the last tour of Matthew Hayden. He is indeed the most complete batsman in current Aussie side. I'll especially remember him for his fierce assault on Shoaib Akhtar. No Aussie batsman is so complete, not even Ponting.

Lastly, I'll certainly follow the Aussie newspapers in coming days for the drubbing they received here:P!!! Looks like Punter's in a hotseat and will have to explain quite a bit Down Under!!! He hasn't got that chance since last Ashes tour to England I guess :P!!!
Peter Roebuck as always will be sharpening his sword and as he wrote in his today's column "The pain of the SCG Test had been assuaged, the anger had been purged. Perhaps that is what it was about all along." The hunters were at last hunted!!!