20 Web Pages, 500 Trackers

We all know that web sites often load trackers and ad programs when we visit. This is why it’s recommended that you use plugins like Ghostery, or take other steps to block those trackers. But how bad is it really? Try 500 trackers in 20 pages.

Politico, for instance, has over 100 trackers in its site. In one test, it loaded 89 of them on one visit to its front page. The Daily Mail, another popular site, was even worse.

A single click on its Mail Online flagship sends a whopping 672 requests, but it manages to run them at blazing speed (19 sec loading time) for a feather weight of 3 Mb, including 2.7 Mb for 578 super-optimized pictures that don’t exceed 120 Kb each.

The Mail Online wins many digital speed/weight records. It is one of the most optimized web sites in the world (see our last week story on the obesity plaguing the news industry). But when it comes to monitoring users, The Mail Online also scores high with 79 trackers loaded in one stroke (see below), of which I was able to detail only 63 in my main table:

376_mailonline_79

These two sites aren’t alone. The author of that article tested 20 popular sites such as CNN, Wired, and others, and found over 500 trackers. Chances are extremely high that you visit at least one of these sites on a daily basis; then again, if you visit ONE of them, ONE time, you’re already tracked.

To get an idea of how complete a picture they get, now multiply that by all the times per day you visit, the places you are when you visit, and how you connect. Maybe you read your Facebook feed in the morning with your coffee between 0630 and 0700, and you visit a few links that go to CNN or Daily Mail or Politico. You connected via your wifi at home, so now there’s a series of data points showing that you are home at that hour every day, and that you probably leave for work between 0700 and 0730. Maybe you go to those sites on your lunch or break or while waiting on the train, carpool, or even in traffic. That’s another time/date stamp with location. None of this is even counting the part where it tracks what you click, what you like, buy, talk about, think about, and how all of that dovetails with other information about your browsing habits, interests, and what kinds of things you’re searching for on the internet.

If you’re a bit freaked out, that’s normal. If you’re angry and want to do something about it, now you’re on the right track. There are ways to stop these trackers from pegging your every move and time of movement. We’ll show you some of them at the Cryptoparty on December 5th. It’s free, so make plans now to attend. In the meantime, check out Ghostery.

 

Cryptoparty

TOWR is proud to announce that we will be offering a free admission Cryptoparty on 5 December 2015! This is part of the Cryptoparty movement, which helps regular people like you—regardless of skill level—learn about how to help secure your personal data and communications. Cryptoparties are casual environments, NOT classrooms, and they are held all over the world. From the Cryptoparty website:

A CryptoParty is free, public and fun. It is an open format where everyone is welcome independent of their age, gender or knowledge. People bring their computers, mobile devices, and a willingness to learn! CryptoParty is a decentralized, global initiative to introduce the most basic cryptography software and the fundamental concepts of their operation to the general public, such as the Tor anonymity network, public key encryption (PGP/GPG), and OTR (Off The Record messaging).

Privacy is a basic, fundamental right. It’s the line that we choose to draw about how much society and the government can intrude into our private lives. There are a lot of reasons to learn basic crypto, but the biggest reason of all is to protect your own information and that of the people you communicate with.

You may be saying some of the following:

  1. “I don’t have anything to hide.” Until you are willing to put your browsing history on an interstate billboard, the most intimate details of your relationships on a sign posted at your desk at work, and have a federal agent ride around with you all day, every day, then this statement is false. Everyone has something to hide, and having something to hide isn’t always bad. It’s called privacy. Besides, just because you don’t care about YOUR privacy doesn’t mean your contacts don’t. By not caring about your own, you put them in danger too—and you don’t give them a say.
  2. “The government is already tracking all of our stuff anyway.” And? When you come home and someone is robbing you, do you shrug and say “well, you’re already here so you might as well take what you’re going to”? No. You fight it. Same principle. Make them work for it.
  3. “I don’t talk about anything I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying in public.” Really? I’m sure your spouse or significant other would beg to differ.
  4. “I don’t know enough about computers.” This is the worst excuse of all. Crypto can be learned, it can be practiced and mastered. Just like the more tactical stuff that you might be doing on the weekends.

Cryptoparties are a place where you can walk around and ask the most basic of questions, get one on one attention, and walk through learning about tools and processes to protect yourself. It’s meant so that the most basic of beginners can meet up with those who are more advanced and willing to share knowledge, so no matter where you’re at on the spectrum, you’ll be welcome. Here are just some of the topics that will be available for you to learn:

  • The darknet, and how to get to it (Tor and I2P).
  • How to encrypt your emails (and decrypt the ones you receive)
  • What is Linux, and why does everyone tell you to get it?
  • Setting up a VPN
  • Secure chatting through OTR
  • How to set up your email program to transmit securely
  • Mobile device security
  • What secure texting program should you use and why?

The best part about going to a cryptoparty is that it’s free. Bring your laptops and power cords, bring your mobile devices, and get ready to have some fun.

Check out the event page for more details!