Ghostery

Well, there are three burning issues with that.

One, I don’t want a website to know what I look at and where I end up.

Two, it turns out that by enabling those trackers and clicking through to Amazon my price is increased to accommodate affiliate commissions (to the Best Of site) and was somehow set according to my ability to pay based on some obscure profile of where I live,  what I do and what else I buy (and I refuse to use Amazon).

Three, there are no privacy statements anywhere on the Amazon merchant’s product pages so you can’t make an informed decision before you buy. And no warranty information either. Amazon et al., take note that you are likely breaking some ACCC rule by not offering this information upfront.

I went back to the “Best of’ site (Mashable – a reputable tech site) and vainly looked for its privacy policy.

In the end, I had to use Google Search to find it and I was directed to Ziff Davis Publishing privacy policy as it was not on the article’s page.

Now I am not having a shot at Ziff Davis and its 40+ different titles/sites, but its privacy policy is 10,500 words of legalese contained in 24 pages comprising 1,006 sentences and 302 paragraphs

It stated, paraphrased, that it collected terrific amounts of data by a vast number of means including where you have been, where you are going, what you view, what you buy etc. And, that it will use this in any way it wants to (another real kicker).

BTW – Amazon’s Privacy Policy is 2,662 words and six pages with an awful lot of exclusions and links to numerous other policies.

Privacy length

Why, just by visiting a website, had I mortgaged my first-born? By comparison, GadgetGuy’s privacy policy is 800 words, two pages and very specific about what it collects and how it uses it. Yes, I know we are a David compared to a Ziff Davis Goliath, but we have nothing to hide.

Rule 3: Use a VPN, Ghostery (or any reputable ad blocker), turn on all privacy provisions in your browser (I use Firefox as it seems more secure) and always browse in private. Oh, and if you are smart, look at privacy policies before you use a website.

Our US Correspondent Sam Bocetta has a great article on ‘Breaking up with Big Tech.’

The rise of tracking outside the web

Over Xmas, I went unsuccessfully shopping for a new pair of runners at a large shopping centre visiting Rebel, Athletes Foot, Myer and other shoe stores. Within minutes of my return home, I went on the web to see if I could find the shoes I wanted and was served results for shoes from the stores I had visited.

Your smartphone is a tracker and interacts with shop Beacons to build a profile of where you visit.

Beacons

Rule 4: Make sure you disable beacons and location tracking on smartphones. Never use public Wi-Fi at a shopping centre without a VPN.

The so-called impartiality of web search

This is a rant about the shoes but also about the way search engines, all of them, manipulate results.

key technology issues in 2020

Now I use Google Search because it delivers the best results for me. Bing is variable (usually very limited) and the privacy search Duck Duck Go may well as duck-off. I get a huge difference in search results if I use a VPN.

Some time ago the option to search for Australian pages was relegated from the front line ‘Tools’ menu to Settings, Advanced Settings, Region and you have to set it for each search! And presentation in date order – new to old (which is almost always relevant) changed to ‘Anytime’ and a drop-down box that still does not sort by date within the timeframe you select.

Now we know 96% of Google’s money comes from advertisers, so it explains why these come up first in search, but it does not explain why international reviews (OK these often have a local URL as well) and news invariably occupies the early page search results (even when set to Australia) and relegate more relevant Australian reviews to the latter pages that you don’t look at.

Rule 5 Make sure you explore Google’s advanced search options and set as many as you can to get what you want.

Rise of fake reviews

Two things happened over Christmas for this rant. First, we stayed at a 5-star hotel for two nights – Christmas Eve/Day and received such poor service and food that we gave it a one-star review. Over the next 48-hours, a raft of other genuine one-star reviews appeared – yes, the hotel was bloody abysmal.