Davos, Day Four

It’s been snowing steadily for more than 24 hours as I write this. Bill Clinton is long gone from the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, and while the Davos streets are still busy the intensity level has diminished somewhat.

One reason is that Sunday at Davos is the closest thing to a day of rest. The official doings didn’t get started until mid-afternoon, when the U.S. secretaries of state and treasury took to the stage to give their views of things. As expected, both were mostly upbeat.

In the halls of the Congress Centre, people are huddling. It’s one of the rituals of meetings of this sort — the schmooze effect that is so essential. When such top-level people get together for an event of this sort, part of their motivation is to be with others like themselves, in a place where they can have impromptu meetings.

As Paul Saffo puts it, “Nothing propinquits like proprinquity.” I explain what that means in my Sunday column in the Mercury News.

More on DoubleClick

Richard Smith, who has done more to expose online security holes and highlight privacy violations than anyone I know, sends this follow-up on the DoubleClick situation.

Hi Dan,

Saw your article on DoubleClick and enjoyed it a lot.

Here is another one for you. Lycos has allowed DoubleClick to bug their search results page. Near the bottom of a results page, you can find 1-by-1 GIF file that goes back to DoubleClick. Here is what one of these bugs look like (Note from Dan: I’ve removed the < and > tags at the beginning and end of this so you’ll be able to see the code on this Web page.) :

IMG SRC="http://ad.doubleclick.net/ad/ly.ln/r;kw=sports+cars;
cat=;sz=468×60;ord=8001195465?" WIDTH=1 HEIGHT=1 BORDER=0

You can also see that Lycos is passing off people’s search strings in the “kw” parameter of the URL query string to DoubleClick. Looks to me DoubleClick is profiling Lycos users, but Lycos has never bothered to tell anyone.

I first found these Web bugs about 3 months ago. I asked Lycos what was going on, but never got an answer.

From other news reports, my understand is that banner ads at Lycos are provided exclusively by Engage and not DoubleClick. So these bugs are not related to advertising.

Similar Web Bugs are also being put on DirectHit search result pages.

You might also want to include a link to my Web Bug FAQ.

It explains how Web Bugs (AKA, clear GIFs, tracker GIFs) work and what they are used for.


Richard M. Smith Phone: (617) 962-8351
Internet consultant FAX: (617) 731-5572

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