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Old 08-18-2010, 05:29 AM
 
Location: Amelia View
4,241 posts, read 12,760,009 times
Reputation: 3790

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My cat was recently diagnosed as diabetic, so I've spent a ton of time on the 'net researching the disease since last Friday, most intently on Monday and yesterday. It could be purely coincidental, but ever since Monday I've been receiving email ads enticing me to buy syringes and meters from such-n-such online places.

My ISP is AT&T and I use Google. My email is AOL. While surfing, I never entered my email address on any site to register for membership or for email notices.

So, is it coincidental? or is it possible for my surfing to be tracked back somehow to my AOL account via my IP address? or does AOL track my browsing even though I am not even using the AOL browser? With all the websites I visited, surely my "cookie jar" is quite full (lazy and haven't looked) -- is that how it's done? But I have multiple AOL email addresses, so how does it know where to send the spam?

I'm not concerned, just curious. The emails end up in my spam folder where the delete key is my friend. As well, once I run my various "vacuums" (AVG, Malwarebytes, etc) and clean out the cache, I'll guess the diabetes spams will stop arriving (until I do more surfing). Just really curious.
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Old 08-18-2010, 09:46 PM
 
40,161 posts, read 41,766,549 times
Reputation: 16735
Quote:
Originally Posted by mawipafl View Post
My ISP is AT&T and I use Google. My email is AOL. While surfing, I never entered my email address on any site to register for membership or for email notices.
You signed up for City Data with this email? Anywhere else at all? If you haven't used it anywhere that would be quite strange.

This is the way it works and I'm not suggesting City Data did this either. You register at a site like this. They'll have an agreement with a third party that they will share this information with like your email address, they also allow this third party to set a cookie on your machine when you request pages here. This third party now has both your email address and a cookie to identify you. When you visit another site if that other site also has agreement with the third party they can access the cookie.

Now they know what subject your interested in and since they have your email address....
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Old 08-19-2010, 06:27 AM
 
Location: Amelia View
4,241 posts, read 12,760,009 times
Reputation: 3790
Quote:
Originally Posted by thecoalman View Post
You signed up for City Data with this email? Anywhere else at all? If you haven't used it anywhere that would be quite strange.

This is the way it works and I'm not suggesting City Data did this either. You register at a site like this. They'll have an agreement with a third party that they will share this information with like your email address, they also allow this third party to set a cookie on your machine when you request pages here. This third party now has both your email address and a cookie to identify you. When you visit another site if that other site also has agreement with the third party they can access the cookie.

Now they know what subject your interested in and since they have your email address....
Yes, I have memberships on websites such as city-data that have my email, but I didn't go on any of them and search for diabetes -- not even here on city-data (I did read through posts in the Cat Forum, but I didn't do a specific search for "diabetes", so no one and nothing knew what I was looking for -- I purely ran through the list of threads looking at their titles.) I don't do Facebook or Myspace etc.

Most of my online researching was on websites of medical journals and publications, and on veterinarian sites (none of which required registration to browse). I did land on Wiki a few times to get definitions of some of the medical terms. I did spend a good deal of time on a vet's site who specializes in feline diabetes, but all I did was browse all the pages and didn't leave my email address nor post a question nor anything like that.

And yes, I am aware that I have given permission to sites such as city-data to share my information ... however, thank you for reminding me of that! :-)

As I said though, it's really no big deal -- just a curiosity thing. And I'm beginning to chalk it up to coincidence. Specific-item-spams sometimes come in waves for no reason -- for the longest time I was getting emails to buy watches - I haven't worn a watch nor cared about watches for probably 20 years :-)
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Old 08-19-2010, 09:50 AM
 
40,161 posts, read 41,766,549 times
Reputation: 16735
Quote:
Originally Posted by mawipafl View Post
Yes, I have memberships on websites such as city-data that have my email, but I didn't go on any of them and search for diabetes -- not even here on city-data (I did read through posts in the Cat Forum, but I didn't do a specific search for "diabetes", so no one and nothing knew what I was looking for -- I purely ran through the list of threads looking at their titles.) I don't do Facebook or Myspace etc.
It doesn't matter whether you looked at diabetes on the site that gathers the registration information, let me try and clarify. We have three parties.

A)The site that gathers the registration information.

B)The middle man that is tracking you.

C)The site with the subject matter, in this case cat diabetes.


So you visit site A and provide them with an email address.

They have an agreement with B to share your information and allow them to set a cookie on your machine.

B also has a agreement with C, when you visit C they can access their cookie and since they know you are viewing a page on C they know you are interested in diabetes about cats.

B can then give your email address to C.


Just so it's understood, I'm not suggesting City Data has done this.



-------------------


Data collection and building these profiles is a huge business.... they gather a little bit here and there and all that information adds up to a lot.

Let me give you another example, let's say you have one of those "club" cards from the grocery store. Most people don't realize it but the biggest purpose for those cards is for data collection. The same thing applies when making purchases with credit cards and this is why many of these places will ask for a phone number or your name when you make a cash purchase. Suppose the "club card" registration form requires an email address. If the supermarket provides your information on purchases to the third party that already has identified and set a cookie on your machine they can now serve ads based on your store purchases at sites you visit. You might buy some steak and be getting ads for steaks on sites completely unrelated to steaks.

It's all about connecting the dots and it's not very hard with so many points to gather information, companies want to maximize their spending on ads by targeting ads.

Last edited by thecoalman; 08-19-2010 at 10:03 AM..
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Old 08-19-2010, 10:27 AM
 
Location: Amelia View
4,241 posts, read 12,760,009 times
Reputation: 3790
thecoalman -- excellent excellent explanation ... I get it (duh on me - sorry it took me a while :-) Now I understand. And you're right that it's not necessarily city-data's "fault" since I am registered at other places and they, too, have third party agreements. Thank you muchly for putting my curiosity to rest! Now I can start obsessing about something else :-)
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