View Full Version : You can learn a lot about a guy from his browsing history

03-06-2014, 05:22 AM
I'm not sure if identity theft, and spying/privacy concerns are common concerns for average people but it occurs to me that we often put important traces of ourselves on the net. Unwittingly. Multiple days daily.
For most people I know, you can learn a lot about a guy or a gal from his browsing history. That's logged by google, your ISP...

03-06-2014, 11:48 PM
Support your view. Same theory: you can learn a lot about a guy from his best friends.

03-07-2014, 10:12 AM
There's truth in that as well Ted.
But guys don't tell their best friends everything.

03-07-2014, 08:51 PM
but their mothers do.

03-08-2014, 11:23 PM
You can, but the information isn't easily available to just anyone. Law enforcement with a court order, of course. I'm not certain exactly how much detail can be purchased by companies wanting to sell to people. I wouldn't think it would be down to individual's IP address. Some of the history is logged for analytics, and some to make money in some other way. The infrastructure isn't exactly cheap, and even if I wanted to pay for the use of it, I simply can't afford subscriptions to dozens of sites. To some extent, the 'net can't function without collecting data.

It's one of those grey areas that's hard to draw boundaries for. And it isn't just government that's the issue - anyone who has ever been stalked could tell you that. As for theft, to a large extent it's a numbers game. It seems like every time I see a story on stolen information, the number of accounts of various kinds you can get for $20 USD gets higher. There are also packages that include more than just an account number, with the value of each depending on the person's financial history and credit rating. But even those don't cost that much.

I start with the assumption that all of my information is out there in the wild. Even with an extremely common last name, if you know enough detail about me (and it has to be a lot, because I have very little presence on the 'net), the pieces I can see of the "buy a report for $29.95" without buying it aren't wildly inaccurate. Just some folks marked as relatives that, so far as I know, aren't relatives.

So if all my info's already out there, when or whether I get nailed with theft is luck of the draw. So far, I haven't come up for use in anyone's batch of 1,000 records. I'd have a credit card preemptively replaced because of a merchant breach, and a couple of sites that sent out a mass mailing to change passwords because of a breach. But in both cases, it wasn't because I'd actually been compromised.

The biggest problem is a big chunk of this is run by large rings in countries that have no interest in solving the problem. It's bringing in revenue, or the country is run by organized crime, or both. And other countries haven't been willing to say something along the lines of "do something about these bozos, or we stop trading with you". Until there are serious consequences, you'll be updating security software, changing passwords, and basically hoping your number doesn't come up.

Best practices are all you can do. Get security software and keep it updated. Run scans regularly. Watch what you say online. Balance against account statements every month (yeah, boring. But it also guards against a more common thing - a misscan or miskey that puts someone else's transaction through your account).

For the freedoms angle - again, there's a limit. In practical terms, it's a matter of power. Groups can raise issues, but it's often easy to derail the facts, or there are internal power struggles. The voter can do something about those in office, but they *must* be willing to vote 'em out. Unfortunately, there's a lot of "oh, not my lawmaker", not to mention what it takes in terms of money and connections to gain office. So again, you end up doing what you can, but there are limits to how effective it will be.

For most people, getting info on a person's habits is easier done by dumpster diving, going through the mail, and hiring an investigator. Not everyone leaves a clear trail.

Just my less than organized general thoughts.