[sf-lug] cookies in Ubuntu

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Jul 8 14:38:36 PDT 2011

Quoting jason stone (jasonstone at gmail.com):

> A timely posting on Slashdot today about a visualization program
> called Collusion that displays behavior tracking...
> http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/07/08/123217/Visualizing-Behavior-Tracking-Cookies-With-Firefox

Thanks, Jason.  Just looking through that, now.  Collusion's site
(http://collusion.toolness.org/) has an informational diplay that talks
about many of the tracking companies, and references an interesting
information resource, Privacy Choice (http://privacychoice.org/), which
maintains a comprehensive database on tracking companies, their domains,
what methods they use, etc.  I recommend wariness, however, as Privacy
Choice is yet another company pushing proprietary software.  (As I
speculated the eventual goal will be for the proprietary Ghostery
extension Ehud mentioned, Privacy Choice's proprietary licensing for its
products prohibits commercial use, so they can sell commercial-usage
licensing separately.)

Privacy Choice's database is potentially useful because the entire
Internet tracking / behavioural marketing / targeted communications /
contextual advertising / etc. (the euphemisms are endless) industry
tries to keep a _very_ low profile among members of the public at large.
For a long time, the best list I had of such firms was my own:

Quite a long time ago, in reading site HTML and other clues, I came
across stuff (1x1 pixel GIFs, HTML cookies, JavaScript snippets, etc.) 
pulled down from domains that had nothing to do with the sites I was
trying to visit.  Curious, I looked into them, and they all seemed to be
devoted to spying on the user, throwing unwanted (99.9% of the time)
additional advertising at the user, and in many cases accidentally
causing browser segfaults, bloat, and slowness.

So, I added config items to my DNS nameserver for all of those domains, 
resolving e.g. anything in doubleclick.net to my own server instead of
to (Google-owned) DoubleClick's IPs.  I now have dozens of such useless
domains blackholed in my BIND9 configuration, with comment lines about
who owns/operates them (Overture, Google, Kanoodle, Specificmedia, 
AdKiwi, AOL, Atlas, Quantcast, Full Circle Studies, Nielsen, Safecount,
Audience Science, Blue Kai, CNet, Acerno, Collective Media) and make
that config file available for download in case others want to study or
use it. 

The couple of dozen most obnoxious and incontrovertibly evil domains are
thus blocked entirely for anyone visiting my house and using my DNS
nameserver.  (Any visitor who doesn't like my blocking policies is
welcome to use a different DNS nameserver.)

About Collusion itself:  Yes, it's open source.  Worth looking at -- 
but my offhand impression is that it adds nothing to a Firefox 
installation that already has NoScript and AdBlock Plus.

Its list of site that it blocks is worth looking through, and can be
seen online here in the git repo, here:


Compared to the couple of dozen absolutely evil domains totally blocked
by my nameserver, Collusion's has a couple of hundred.  Unfortunately,
some of them are obviously erroneous, e.g., fwmrm.net, which they block,
serves quite a bit of non-advertising video content, and afyll.net,
which they block, doesn't exist any more.

But anyway, yes, high recommendation (at least) to the informational
display at http://collusion.toolness.org/ that shows visually how the
web of tracking is implemented at several popular sites (IMDB, NY Times, 
Huffington Post, Gamespot, Reference.com).  It should be an eye-opener
for folks.

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