I am interested in learning, from a general layman's perspective, how directed or targeted marketers achieve the result of having relevant ads show up in my browser. I am interested in the general nuts and bolts.
Situation #1 I look around for an herbal health supplement. This involves reading reviews and articles on the product and checking out vendor sites for price and availability. Once the buying decision has been made, I buy on line using Visa. Shortly thereafter, I receive and order confirmation and shipping & tracking info by email. The next day, ad after ad from vendors selling similar products (supplements) magically appear in my browser. How does that work?
It's mostly done with tracking cookies. They are put onto your computer without your knowledge or consent and are used by big companies to track what you do so that they can send adverts for products to your computer that they think you may like.
Thanks, Ric. Let me get this straight, then. A tracking cookie keeps a record of what I watch. Does that mean it tracks URL's or mouse clicks? I know the search engines simply record what I search for. That would be easy. But a tracking cookie...how does it work? Is it tied into the history of the browser? How does it filter the information? They don't do it by hand, do they? Or, does the ISP simply tune in and observe? My interest is more than casual, because I am working up a proposal to extend first, fourth, and fifth amendment privileges to internet communications.
The companies that use tracking cookies monitor the data they get from them via an automated system then sell that data off to the highest bidder. It's all about money. And we are talking substantial amounts of money here.
Personally, I think tracking cookies are an invasion of privacy. They don't ask for your permission at all but track exactly where you go on the internet.
I have used SuperAntiSpyware to remove them in the past and found that just about the worst tracking cookie installers are from young kids gaming and learning sites.
My ex had 2 kids, they often played on the CBeebies website. I was removing over 100 tracking cookies a day, all originating from that site.
As I am reading your post, Ric, a banner and link for "For Sale by Owner" is spread across the bottom of your frame, rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, naturally. It is headed as "Ads by Google." It just so happens that my house is currently listed on Craig's List, real estate by owner. When you say they "all but track exactly where you go," are you suggesting that mouse clicks and/or keywords for postings or communications might be tracked? Do these things work like the diagnostic programs where the technician can kind of take over your computer to work on it?
I'd like to know what the principle behind a data mining cookie is. For example, if I can get into a browser's program, where it says "enter url =" I might add a line "copy url and mail to ed" Then I would have data to analyze. I suspect it's something about that easy. I am quite sure that companies who supply browsers are happy to cooperate.
Those advertisers used such link codes (url itself) directed to their sites and behind those email address issues probably they have their own business their. There are many sites now that collect email address to increase marketing as well as to make money out of it.
Netvani: Thanks for commenting. I am interested in the field out of curiousity. I am finding simple data mining can start with a few lines of html that can tag along with php script in a simple link, button, or form. It quickly gets way more complicated than that. Then, I get busy doing my real work, and forget about it for a while. From a blogger point of view, I think people would be interested to read about how it works. Witness the numbers of casual surfers concerned with privacy, not to mention some of the heavyweights using the web for serious stuff. Yeah, that email marketing continues to work out. I just opened a hushmail.com address. That's only one example of how things are going. Hushmail, you're never required to actually offer or commit to an identity, such as a verification. You can open a live type or google account then and respond to blogs. Without that prior verification, big brother or the prophet mohammed can id the user, but that id might not stand up in kangeroo court.
From Wikipedia: A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie, is used for an origin website to send state information to a user's browser and for the browser to return the state information to the origin site. The state information can be used for authentication, identification of a user session, user's preferences, shopping cart contents, or anything else that can be accomplished through storing text data. Cookies are not software. They cannot be programmed, cannot carry viruses, and cannot install malware on the host computer . However, they can be used by spyware to track user's browsing activities - a major privacy concern that prompted European and US law makers to take actions.  Cookies could also be stolen by hackers to gain access to a victim's web account.