Time to get the legalese out of the way. (If you are looking for content, skip this article. If you like reading privacy policies, read on.)
The Internet affords a certain amount of privacy, but it is not complete. All web servers note your IP address, and thus server logs can infer that person x saw y set of pages. While this IP address does not by itself identify an individual, it does identify the city that individual’s service provider (ISP) is located. Also, the HTTP protocol includes the link that brought you to a particular page, so I can tell which page contained the hyperlink person x came from, but not what x browsed before.
In these days of big services (like Blogger, Google, etc.) and third party widgets (contextual ads, etc.), certain third parties can significant information could be gathered about your browsing habits across many web sites. I’ll link below to the relevant third parties below.
So, herein I describe what I do with such information and I’ll point you to the services I use so you can read their respective privacy policies.
I hate spam as much as you do. If you send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), then I’ll do my best to guard your address. I won’t sell or rent it, and I’ll endeavor to avoid cc’ing you to strangers (but accidents do happen). I don’t have any newsletters at the moment, so email traffic back from me should be light and personal. Should I start a newsletter in the future, you might get an invite, but you will have to actively opt in to be subscribed. I publicize my gmail address here because of gmail’s spam filtering ability. If you email me, you might get a reply from one of my other addresses (@holisticpolitics.org or @quiz2d.com). Rest assured, such an email would be from me, no leak occurred. It’s just that I’m not a big fan of web email except for its superior spam fighting capability.
Like many bloggers, I like to see what kind of traffic I am getting, and where it comes from. I use
I use this information mainly to see how many pages are being read, where I am getting links from, and which keyword phrases bring people to this site. Once in a while I do look at the recent visitor activity; it’s nice to see when someone likes my writings enough to stay and read multiple pages. In general I cannot link such data to a particular person, but if you send me an email right after reading a bunch of pages, I might put 2 and 2 together. Whoop tee do. I might correctly guess which hyperlink brought you to this site and which pages you read before wrote me. I doubt such information will be embarrassing. And I’ll likely forget the info pretty quickly anyway as I’m a busy man.
If such things give you qualms, don’t read blogs. Or use a proxy server, block the DNS addresses and cookies of the various statistics services, or whatnot. Bloggers write to be read, so they tend to look at their stats.
Update (April 2009)! Google has now implemented
That is, Google is now tracking your path across the web through the cookies placed by Adsense (and possibly other services). This allows Google to serve ads based on your interests vs. just the info on the page you are looking at. If this disturbs you, you can opt out of this and other similar ad tracking systems.