There’s dark stuff behind that web page

Thanks to bonkiss

There has been quite a lot of fuss over the last week about the discovery that Apple apparently  store a wadge of location data on your iPhone (actually it isn’t your locations but the wifi spots you have been close to and Apple never meant to store it all anyway, or so they say). I think the discovery turned out to be a bit of a non issue but it did highlight how people are growing more sensitive to the issues of privacy and that they consider their location history to be potentially something they don’t want to share.

Compared to the sharing of location data on a mobile device the amount of information that we give up when we browse the web is colossal. I have been plagued recently by popunders from the likes of Groupon, horrible spawning windows that you don’t even see but which clog up the works and which escape my popup blocker. Someone recommended a Firefox plugin called NoScript which prevents scripts executing without your explicit approval, the results are quite amazing. On almost every page that I visit there are multiple scripts running in the background, I don’t know what they are doing or whether they are in any way invasive but it seems in most cases declining to enable them does not appear to in any way limit the page I am viewing. I guess a lot of them are adserving services and other trackers, they probably don’t do much harm and may well be some of the juice that keeps a free internet working.

The question for me is whether these services need to make themselves more explicit to the people they are tracking or whatever they are doing. If you want to find out what is going on behind the dark door of that web site and you use Firefox give NoScript a try, you can always switch it off if you are comfortable with all those background scripts. I will be keeping it running for a while.

BTW: There are 2 scripts running on this page, Google Analytics (provides usage stats) and the Kontactr which allows you to mail me without the need for me to disclose my email address to the whole world.