What Are Tracking Cookies, and Should They Concern Me?

In two other questions, What can a website I visit tell about me? and What are browser cookies and how are they used? I discussed some of the information that websites get, and techniques that they can use to collect and remember more.

What I didn’t talk about in much detail, is that through clever use of cookies, most typically associated with advertising, it is possible for some services (not sites) to gather a little more information about you. Or a lot.

And thus we have “tracking” and “third party” cookies to talk about.

Read moreWhat Are Tracking Cookies, and Should They Concern Me?

Finding the Owner of an IP Address

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How do I figure out who owns an IP address?

At the risk of coming off as rude: you don’t. There’s a certain amount of information you can get, and I’ll show you shortly, but the level of detail most people want is simply not something that you can get on your own.

Over the years, I’ve received this question repeatedly and for various reasons. Most commonly, it’s from someone who’s being harassed online, and they believe that they have the IP address of the person responsible and now want to track them down.

It’s critically important that you realize that you will not, on your own, be able to get the information you want. The name, location, phone number, email address or any other specific information are simply not available to just any given IP address. Not only can an IP address change or be shared among many computers (and hence people), but the information that you’re seeking is considered private and is protected by the ISP who owns that IP address.

To get that information, you’ll need a legal reason to require it and that typically means a court order of some sort.

However, let’s look at what you can determine from an IP address on your own and a few tools that will help you determine at least the ISP that owns it.

Read moreFinding the Owner of an IP Address

About that Facebook test…

This week, tech news and social media were all up in arms about a test that Facebook had performed a few years back.

The test was very simple: for a small subset of users, Facebook tweaked the algorithm that decides what posts to show you. Group A got slightly more negative posts displayed in their feed, and group B got slightly more positive posts. The net effect is that people in group A went on to share slightly more negative posts themselves, whereas the folks in group B posted slightly more positive things.

Now, I’m not going get into the ethics of the test, or the tap dancing around Facebook’s terms of service that apparently occurred. This isn’t even about whether Facebook’s actions were good or evil, right or wrong or something else (though I will touch on one of the outcomes of the test and how it has direct relevance to something I’m doing.)

Nope. This is about a greater reality that I think you need to be aware of.

You’re being experimented on all the time.

Read moreAbout that Facebook test…