Web bugs ?

Andre' Kesteloot akestelo@bellatlantic.net
Sat, 22 Jul 2000 18:58:36 -0400

by Dave Murphy, member@itrain.org

Just yesterday I got excited about Microsoft's
announcement that future versions of Internet
Explorer would be able to cut out 3d-party cookies; a
feature that's already included in the Opera web
browser. Today, I'm blind sided by a new revelation
that web bugs, 1-pixel transparent gif images, are
being used by online advertisers to track you and me
on the net: which sites, when we visit them, in what
order we visit--all the items that are nobody's
business by our own.

Like cookies, web bugs are electronic tags that help
Web sites and advertisers track visitors'
whereabouts in cyberspace. But Web bugs are
invisible on the page and are much smaller in file
size, which makes them load quickly an

It's kind of like setting out a trip wire. The web bugs
send a ping back to the advertiser's server every
time we load a page that contains one, and the
advertiser records that our computer just loaded
that page. Well, I don't want to be tripped up, and I
don't want to be trailed on the net.

Web bugs can "talk" to existing cookies on a
computer if they are both from the same Web site or
advertising company, such as DoubleClick, which
uses bugs and dominates the online advertising

Ok, here's the real rub, More than a year ago, I
reported that DoubleClick purchased Abacus Direct,
the company that specializes in offline database
marketing: magazine subscriptions, mailing lists,
addresses, phone numbers, lots of personal
identification information. Now, along comes
DoubleClick again, fresh from losing an online privacy
fight over invasive cookies, and it's using the web
bugs to do it's dirty work again.

The Web bugs do the tactical work, the cookies are
running the strategic operations, and DoubleClick is
waging war by matching up your online activities with
Abacus Direct's mail order lists so your online and
offline habits are synched. Now do you get the