=== by Bob Sutherland ===
It is not my intention to be collecting information that will personally identify the visitors to my website. I would have no use for the data. As far as I am concerned you can remain a completely anonymous lurker while visiting my web pages.
In case you wish to contact me I have listed my email address at the bottom of all of my web pages. Despite having taught many students and teachers how use their first email accounts I do not personally receive very many email messages. If your email message gets past the spam filters then I will read it. I usually reply to email messages within a few days.
Please do not send me any more emails boasting that the robots or programmers of your company could do a better job at creating my website. This is my retirement hobby. I want to do it myself! No person near retirement age wants to receive email messages suggesting that they can be replaced by a robot!
While I am busy creating the content and programming code for my web pages there are many companies involved in various ways regarding the distribution of my website files on the Internet. Some of those companies I have discovered are using computer cookies and other modern web technologies that may have an impact on your privacy.
I have created a web page to answer the question What is a computer cookie?
Have you ever seen web pages as you surf around on the Internet that let you change the font text size on the screen by clicking little square icons with the letter "A" inside? Well I tinkered around experimenting until I was able to adapt a publically shared version of that programming code to let visitors change the size of the photogaphs on my Canadian War Photographs webpages. In the process I created my first computer cookie. It is a simple, functional cookie that adds a tiny bit of visitor interactivity to my website.
My computer cookie does not track you as you surf around on the Internet. A computer cookie can only track and record your visits to webpages that have the programming code for that particular cookie installed on them. I only have three websites so it does not seem to be worthwhile to be spending my time attempting to learn how to create a tracking cookie.
Website Analytic Software
Anyone who invests the time, money and effort to create a website on the Internet is eventually going to want to know if anyone is actually finding and viewing their website. Programs called website analytic software are designed to answer that curiousity. So far I have tried four such programs: Analog, Piwik, Open Web Analytics and Google Analytics.
Analog used the data collected in the history log file of my web hosting company's server computers. The program was able to create some cumulative and anonymous charts, tables and graphs of statistics regarding the visits of humans and robots to my website.
Robots on the Internet are simply computers that have been programmed to surf the Internet and gather certain types of information without the need for a human being to sit in front of their keyboard. Robots are used by search engines, university research labs and companies of all sizes who want to harvest or map some of the data available on the Internet.
Every computer connected to the Internet creates a history log file of its communications with other computers. If you look in the menus on your computer, tablet or smart phone you should be able to find the history log file kept by your web browser software. The contents of the log file will include a list sorted by date and time of all the websites you have visited on the Internet.
Piwik, Open Web Analytics and Google Analytics use computer cookies to track the surfing of visitors as they surf from web page to web page inside a website. They probably use some other technologies as well either as a backup plan or to collect additional data. The cumulative and anonymous charts, tables and graphs of statistics the programs display were more comprehensive than the information that Analog was able to present.
By now you have probably noticed the advertisements on my website. I signed up for Google's Adsense program that provides a tiny bit of revenue to website owners in exchange for placing some advertising on their websites. Any dreams I formerly had about earning a living from the advertising revenue vanished from my thoughts long ago as I waited quite a few years before receiving my first cheque from Google. The advertising revenue I have so far received does not begin to cover the costs associated with owning a hobby website.
Google and its network of advertising agencies and advertisers do not want to waste your time showing you random advertisements. They have programmed their computers to collect and create a profile of your interests based on the types of websites you visit. Using your profile their computers then select advertisements they think you will be interested in.
As a website owner I do not get to see the advertisements that will be shown on my website. I only get to choose the location on the page. Google's computer waits until the last moment before deciding which advertisements to upload to your computer for you to view as you visit my web pages.
Besides the DoubleClick cookie Google and any member of its network of advertising agencies and advertisors may be using other types of cookies, web beacons and possibly other forms of modern technology to track and create a profile about you as you visit websites with their advertisements and programming code.
Computer Security Monitoring
CloudFlare provides mirror hosting of websites around the world so that web pages will download and display faster on the screens of computers, tablets and smart phones. CloudFlare also monitors any websites it is mirroring using cookies and probably other web technologies. CloudFlare states that it is not interested in tracking and will soon discard any data it may collect about people and computers who are well behaved on the Internet. CloudFlare's focus is on finding and tracking anyone and anything that is causing problems on the Internet. A problem may be a computer infected with a virus, a hacker, a spammer or just a very old computer that is slowing down the Internet. People typing inappropriate things into the visitor comment sections on websites is a typical problem to which CloudFlare can respond by blocking that person (or actually their computer) from visiting other websites with visitor comment sections.
For anyone who may want more details than I have provided here is a link to some web pages created by Google:
- DoubleClick cookies as explained by Google.
- About Google Ads is an overview of Google's advertising programs.
- How Google uses data when you use our partners' sites or apps.
- Ads Settings A Google tool that lets you opt out of Google’s interest-based ads or edit the interests and demographics associated with your Google Account.
I think that it is only fair to advise you that to opt out of receiving cookies from advertisers you actually have to allow them to place one of their cookies on your computer. Their do-not-place-a-cookie-here cookie can then communicate to their computers telling them not to place any more cookies on your computer. If any of the do-not-place-a-cookie-here cookies then expire or are deleted you will have to apply for a replacement do-not-place-a-cookie-here cookie for your computer. If you have more than one web browser on your computer for surfing the Internet then you will need a do-not-place-a-cookie-here cookie for each web browser you use.
Canadian Government Resources
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is the department within the Canadian Government that is responsible for privacy issues. In doing some research on their website www.priv.gc.ca I discovered the following web pages with further information about cookies and Internet advertising:
- Fact Sheet: Cookies - Following the crumbs (brief introduction to topic - May 2011)
- Fact Sheet: Cookies - Following the crumbs - Frequently Asked Questions (May 2011)
- Fact Sheet: Cookies - Following the crumbs - Web Tracking with Cookies (May 2011)
- Guideline: Privacy and Online Behaviour Advertising (December 2015)
- Guideline: Policy Position on Online Behaviour Advertising (December 2015)
The third government article up above includes a hyperlink to a non government organization that is conducting an online research project panopticlick.eff.org. You may want to try their online fingerprint test. They are attempting to measure how easy it would be for some organization such as an advertising agency to track your computer's web surfing activities on the Internet without using cookies.