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Big Brotha

I visited a site I’d never been to before and it had the following ad on the side:

I was very creeped out. How does it know me? I clicked to find out.

How does the Amazon Honor System paybox know my name?

When you look at a Web page, the words and pictures you see actually
may come from several sources. Your browser software assembles the
pieces and displays them as a single page. On the Web site you were
visiting, most of the content you saw was transmitted from server
computers used by the site’s operator. The image made up of the paybox
and your name displayed within the paybox was different–we sent it to
you directly from This allowed us to recognize you by name
just like we do when you visit the Web site. Because’s servers transmitted the image containing a paybox and your
name within the paybox directly to your browser software, the site
owner never saw the paybox or your name and never received any
information about you.

Still, I think it’s a terrible
business strategy–scaring your customers. Not all would take the time
to click through and figure out how they know your name. Privacy is a
very sensitive issue on the Internet. If I wanted to donate money I
would certainly not give it to them now, after they freaked me out like

4 Responses to “Big Brotha”

  1. guy
    February 20th, 2005 | 10:21 pm

    if someone could once and for all explain to me that whole ‘privacy’ issue, without resorting to circular arguments like ‘because i don’t *want* them to know about me’ – i would be eternally grateful.

    why on earth do you care who does or does not know your name? privacy *is* a sensitive issue on the internet, but it totally beats me why.

    it seems to be like something you keep hearing that it should be protected, and then after a while you’re like ‘yeah, what about privacy really?’

  2. cynthia rockwell
    February 21st, 2005 | 7:46 am

    oops i just deleted my comments. starting over. first, my initial reaction *is* ‘because i don’t want them to know me’, which in fact i think is good enough. what business is it of yours or anyone else’s? i don’t want to walk down the street with a sign over my head broadcasting my name either. but beneath that there is the practical reason–because info like that is collected and can be used against you. the government (or anyone else) can, if it wants, find out every web site you ever visited. if i am looking at something about terrorism or kiddie porn or whatever, that can be known about me and used against me. or even if i’m just really into monster truck rallies and don’t want anyone to know about it, what business is it of yours?

    and second, i think we (humans, but perhaps especially americans) want to be able to control the image people have of us, whether that means hiding that i’m a porn aficionado or that i have STDs or that i buy lots of self-help books.

    and finally, we were all forced to read ‘1984’ in high school and that is seared into our collective unconscious.

  3. guy
    February 21st, 2005 | 9:52 pm

    no doubt, my dear, it is no business of mine, and the last thing i care about is what kind of porn everyone is into. i simply can’t empathize with the worry. as hard as i try to imagine, i don’t care what other people know about me. except my credit card number.

    and btw, f.b.i – i was tempted to buy a book subtitled ‘memoires of a matchmaker’ in b&n this weekend! and my address is 45 banks street 🙂

  4. cynthia rockwell
    February 21st, 2005 | 11:36 pm

    ted kazynski is rolling in his grave. or is he still alive? he’s either rolling in his grave or rolling his eyes at you foreigners and your naive openness. 😉