| This has started recently . I had it installed for a while some time ago
| with no problems . It just really irritates that "somebody" feels they
| the right to track me , and that they can block my efforts to prevent it .
| Big Brother isn't just the gov-goons ...
Did you know that Ghostery does the same thing:
I haven't used it and don't know what might be
going on with your machine. Have you checked
on what processes you have running? If you
run Sysinternals Process Explorer you should be
able to make sense of all listings. (Right-click to
find the executable path.) There's very little that
*needs* to be running.
Maybe a more likely culprit might be compatibility
issues. Do you allow automatic updates? That's always
an invitation to problems. Example: Mozilla started
requiring digital signing of extensions awhile back.
Now older extensions won't install. I have no idea
about Opera, but that scenario seems possible: Opera
updates itself by default. You allow that. Things
break without notice.
You might look here if you're interested in really
dealing with privacy online:
A modest HOSTS file that blocks things like
Doubleclick, Google analytics and Scorecard
Research will eliminate a great deal of tracking.
Disable cookies, or only allow session cookies
that disappear when the browser is closed. There's
no excuse for 3rd-party cookies and there never
was. They directly subvert the security model
that cookies were intended to follow, which is that
no site other than the one you're visiting should
be able to access that site cookie. But 3rd-party
cookie-setters don't need to hack local cookies. They
just set their own at someone else's website! Frames
are also a big problem. Frames allow cross-site
scritping attacks. Frames allow 1st-party cookies
at 3rd-party sites: A Facebook button in a frame
looks exactly like a Facebook button not in a frame.
But in the former case you're actually visiting
facebook.com involuntarily. You're loading a browser
window at facebook.com. 3rd-party images are usually
ads and/or web bug trackers. (Most tracking script
is accompanied by a noscript option to track with a
web bug instead.)
It's a very complex issue. Ghostery is just giving
people the sense that they're getting behind the curtain,
while selling them out. Adblock is the same way. I
haven't used that one either, but I've seen articles
about how they take payments from "respectable"
companies to grant them exceptions. The program
is free. They make their money by selling you out.
Only on the Internet could such bizarre shennanigans
work out successfully.
But actually having a modicum of privacy is
increasingly challenging. A few examples: Opera
is based on Chromium, which is Google spyware.
(See here for details:
Has Opera cleaned up the Chromium code? I don't
know. The tech world has a strange, irrational
history of thinking Google is cute. A surprising number
of techies prefer Chrome and don't seem to mind the
spying. The same has been true with gmail. It started
with techies who were thoroughly suckered by Google's
pretense of "inviting" them to try a perennial beta.
Once all the techies had gmail, others were convinced
it was "cool". How could adware/spyware be "cool"?
It just doesn't make sense.
So there are the questions about Opera. Do you allow
frames and 3rd-party cookies? If so then Facebook
might be following your every move, even if you've
never visited their site. Likewise with Twitter. Do you
block jquery and Google fonts? If you have a status
bar in your browser you'll see those loading at most
websites. The story there is a whole separate issue:
Most webmasters don't really know much about
operating a website and designing pages. At the same
time, interactive pages are all the rage. Google fills
in some of the gaps by offering free script libraries,
free tracking info, free fonts.... They're very clever
about that kind of thing. They provide freebies to
give webmasters what they want without needing
to learn for themselves. The webmasters are thrilled
and don't even realize that they're letting Google
spy on their visitors. (Or if they do, they don't care.
Google's cute.) It's amazing how many pages
now have built-in Google tracking. It can be blocked,
but it's getting increasingly complex. Downloading fonts
has never been safe, anyway. That should be blocked.
But before you can do all that you have to know about
it. What good is it for Ghostery to block Acme Ads if
fonts.google.com, google-analytics.com, etc are receiving
an ongoing log of your travels? Acme might not know
who you are, but Google probably does. For all we
know, Acme might just be a subcontractor selling
It gets worse. Akamai, a giant network backbone
company that sells capacity, started selling tracking
data some time ago. You can't always know when
you're at Akamai, and HOSTS files don't seem to block
it. You might go to Microsoft.com, but then MS is
subcontracting with Akamai to handle traffic, so you
end up going through their system. It turns out
Akamai wanted to get on the sleazebag bandwagon
to make a few extra bucks. How do you stop that?
It's like trying to stop a cable company from knowing
what TV channel you're watching. You can't prevent
the data going through them. The gov't is not likely
to rein that in. They're in the same business. With
things like PRISM in place, and the AT&T scandal over
gov't hacking of the Pacific telephone line, spyware
tech companies are just what the fanatic national
security beancounters ordered. I see no reason to
even consider that Akamai, having already demonstrated
dishonesty, might not be selling data to the gov't.
They've already shown that they consider that a
reasonable business model.
If all of the above seems too complicated then you
have no chance at even reasonable privacy. If you're
in the middle about it -- you want to act but don't
want to live in your cellar surrounded by glowing
screens -- you could do a few simple things:
* Have one browser with frames and script disabled.
Use it when possible. Also block 3rd-party images
if you can tolerate some broken webpages.
* Use NoScript in Firefox to block all but necessary
* Only allow session cookies.
* Set up a HOSTS file.
* Install a firewall if you don't have one. On XP
I use Online Armor v. 184.108.40.206 free. (They later
sold out to another company.) A firewall allows
you to stop outgoing traffic that you didn't
* There's probably no harm in also leaving Ghostery
in place, but they're selling you out. I'd consider
its use to be counterproductive.