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Ghostery - Finding the trackers

Software to detect who is looking at you, when your looking at a web-site.

Steve Smith, host of your Technology Questions Answered, demonstrates and explains the inner works of Ghostery software design to detect web tracking software.

Episode #1-42 released on July 17, 2011

This is Technology Questions Answered, and for those who don't know me, I'm Steve Smith, your host, also known as Zed Axis. Today, I'll be answering the question of who is watching us navigate the internet with a free and cool software application, called Ghostery.

This free application allows you to detect trackers, learn about the companies that employ and distribute these trackers, view their privacy policies, and even block them if the need be. I'm going to explain each and every step for you today, and demonstrate how the application actually works in a video demonstration.

Let's get started by downloading the software, you can download this free application at http://www.ghostery.com/ and the installation is really easy.

As a primary service to all users, it will allow you to detect virtually all third party tracking software included in web-sites. This includes java script, pixel trackers, beacons, etc... All of which are able to determine geographic location, operating system, browser, IP address, visit duration, color depth, screen resolution, etc... In other words, a lot of information that can be used to determine what your doing on a web-site. You can even determine the common path through a web-site, where the mouse has been on a screen, which links are clicked most often, which files are being downloaded, even how you leave the current page.

Not all trackers are evil, this is why Ghostery takes the time to educate you about the nature of each of the trackers, by providing the current privacy policy of the technology in question. In the case of Zed Axis Productions, we use four form of tracking software. Our primary tracking software is server based, and first party. I can determine all the above information about mouse gestures, file downloads, time spent on web-site, geographic location, screen resolution, and color depth, and more useful, browser and operating system. Now, keep in mind, as web site designers, we need to know this information, and I use my Godaddy.com Site Analytics software to determine how to maintain and modify the navigation scheme, and even track the number of listeners of my various podcasts.

Another set of trackers we use, and also common on the internet are the Google Site Analytics and Adsense. These are common trackers on the internet, and not very problematic, despite the actual belief of many groups. Unlike most other tracking software, you can delete the current information stored in your Google account, essentially resetting the information stored, and you can also report to Google, web-sites that don't deploy their own privacy policies. As part of the primary privacy policy of Google Adsense, all web-site that deploy Google based trackers must make readily available the existence of the Double Dart cookie.

Now, the Ghostery software does allow for some more cool features beyond this, how about the ability to disable all, or selectively tracking software. Keeping in mind that the users have the choice to decide where they go, and the right to stay, fully or partly anonymous on the internet. So, if you visit a web-site that uses tracking software your not feeling comfortable with, you can disable it permanently, as long as the Ghostery software is active.

Despite all the positives of this software, I do have to explain how the internet works currently. Never forget, you can not change or hide your IP address, otherwise you won't be able to access the internet correctly. You can use VPN services to make yourself anonymous online.

Preventing web-sites from collecting visitors statistics may be nearly impossible. The Site Analytics suite made available to users is capable of collecting statistics despite java script being turned off or trackers being blocked because the server collects data by other means.

Inline URL based tracking can't be blocked by the same principle, but in the case of podcast download tracking, nor do podcasters want this. This is because we need the statistics to attract quality advertisers and sponsors, with relevant product spots. This is how we make money usually to support our podcasts. Some of us are paid by collection of clicks on the relevant advertisements on our web-sites. Keep in mind, your not obliged to click, nor visit the site.

The fastest way to block most trackers is to disable java script or use noscript. The integration of no tracking headers in browsers will also help those who want to remain anonymous online.

After using this application for the last month, I can give my stamp of approval of the hard work put into this application, and furthermore applaud them for not just blocking trackers, but allowing people to educate themselves into the functions of the trackers in question. I give them a 5 on 5.

Next week, I'll be demonstrating how to secure your wired and wireless routers from uninvited guests, both inside, and outside the home, and / or workplace.

Thank you for all the new subscribers this week. If you like the show, I invite all of you to tell your friends and family about it. For all information pertaining to the podcasts, the listener survery, this episode, future episodes and past episodes alike, to sponsor us, donate to the podcast, or just to get yourself some cool gear and apparel, visit www.zedaxis.net.

Don't forget to subscribe to the show, show the like button some love, have a great day, and stay safe and online. This has been your Technology Questions Answered.

Host : Steve Smith | Music : Jonny Lee Hart | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Productions

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