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Vince
18-05-2004, 10:47 PM
The last 2 or 3 times I have visited this forum a popup questionnaire has appeared asking for personal information about my browsing habits. At the top it says that it is being conducted by Red Sheriff!
I have to delete a bunch of Red Sheriff tracking cookies from my system every week so I don't feel much like telling them anything. How do the rest of you feel about it?

Peter M
18-05-2004, 11:29 PM
I agree. Not only is it an invasion of private space but it is also a pain in the proverbial !!

exLL
18-05-2004, 11:31 PM
Hi Vince. I mentioned that survey in the thread near the top of this page headed "PressF1 problems, down time and all that Jazz - please read".

Open that thread and scroll down to my posting "exLL. Posted: May 17, 2004 9:07 PM" Read that, plus the very full explanation I got from "marke. Posted: May 18, 2004 11:54 AM"

Cheers :)

beama
18-05-2004, 11:41 PM
hi Vince
I access this forum from many different pc's and each running a different os's ( all windows based) but I havent seen this yet on any of those machines (I may be lucky), mind you they are all behind a firewall ( yes even my home two) which blocks a lot of stuff. But I would be tempted to run either adaware or the latest version of spybot.

stu120404
18-05-2004, 11:51 PM
> Not only is it an invasion of private space

ummm, no it is not as they cant get any person information from that survey as it is all anonymous, it uses Cookies the same as this forum uses Cookies

> HiI mentioned that survey in the thread near
> the top of this page headed "PressF1 problems, down
> time and all that Jazz - please read".
>
> Open that thread and scroll down to my posting "exLL.
> Posted: May 17, 2004 9:07 PM" Read that, plus the
> very full explanation I got from "marke. Posted:
> May 18, 2004 11:54 AM"

From :
PressF1 problems, down time and all that Jazz - please read (http://pressf1.pcworld.co.nz/thread.jsp?forum=1&thread=47191&start=30&msRange=15#271791
)

marke said:

That pop-up survey that you refer to is an initiative of a group called the Online Publishers Group - of which IDG is a member. Other members include TVNZ, NZ Herald, Stuff, Vodaphone and XtraMSN.

This group was set up to help try and grow the internet market in New Zealand.

Key to this was actually understanding the market too (including how it changes over time). To that end, we commissioned RedSheriff (an internet measurement company) which has since become Neilsen NetRatings to undertake the traffic measurement and run both these popup online surveys (which run on all OPG-member sites) and an extensive telephone survey.

There are basically two reasons that this popup continues to appear on your screen (assuming that you are not blocking popups of course). The first is that if you have filled out a survey previously, it gets invalidated eventually (as the information would otherwise become stale) - and you are then invited to participate again in the survey (this gives us an idea of how people's internet usage changes over time).

Secondly - the survey information gathered is anonymous. The way that we ensure that we are not getting information from the same small group of information over and over again is that we (or rather NetRatings) can place a cookie that says "this person has already filled out the survey, and recently enough that they shouldn't be invited to fill it out again". If you delete the cookie, the system will re-invite you to fill out the survey.

There are tens of thousands of completed surveys - and for the first time, the internet industry in New Zealand is able to start to understand better how people are using online. Which in turn allows them to better ascertain the needs of their audiences ... leading to better sites for you, the reader. In this respect, New Zealand is actually leading the rest of the world, and Neilsen Netratings is using the NZ model as a model for other countries to follow.

I hope that helps explain what the survey is about and what we do with the information gathered? Again, I stress that the information filled out in these surveys is anonymous, and the results are aggregated, and no-one is personally identiable from the surveys. It's simply a tool to help people publishing online to better understand who their audience is, what they want to do online, and how they want to do it.

Mark Evans
CTO & Online Business Manager
IDG Communications Ltd

Jester
19-05-2004, 12:59 AM
I've never seen it - sounds like that's a good thing!

Biggles
19-05-2004, 10:28 AM
>I have to delete a bunch of Red Sheriff tracking cookies from my system every week so I don't feel much like telling them anything.

And further to Mark's explanation, the RedSheriff cookies you are deleting are on all of the member sites he listed. One of RedSheriff's functions is to provide independant measurement of site traffic, rather than site owners relying on their own web log analysis.

The RedSheriff cookie simply tags the page as having been viewed, which gets put into the stats for that site. All the members subscribing to the RedSheriff service get reports on their traffc, which is all down to those cookies.

The cookies aren't identifying you personally in any way, they are simply there so the fact that you opened a page can get put into the site stats for the site.

marke
19-05-2004, 10:47 AM
Hi Vince -

If you want to avoid getting the popup survey, I suggest that you don't delete the RedSheriff cookies ... and just decline (if you don't want to participate) to fill out the survey when the invitation appears. That way the cookie will record the fact that you declined to fill the survey out and you won't get bothered by the popup any more. That is to say, in this instance that cookie will be doing you a favour.

Without getting on too much of a hobby-horse, there's an awful lot of paranoia about cookies and what they can and can't do - including from a lot of our own journalists I might add! ;-)

A cookie can't identify YOU personally - it can only identify the machine that it's on. Cookies are largely used to overcome the limitation of the HTTP (web) protocol because it is "stateless".

What that means is that unlike client-server applications where the server "knows" that the client is connected to it, and what "state" that client is in, HTTP doesn't allow that - the HTTP server can't know whether you still have the page that you requested from it up on your screen or whether you've left and gone to another site (or switched your machine off). Nor can it tell (without the use of cookies) that you are the same person when you come back to the server again next time (unless of course it is an application where you are forcing people to log in with a username and password).

People who routinely scan their machines for cookies and delete every one of them under the belief that they are being spied upon, are, IMHO, being overly paranoid. Yes it's true that some cookies are placed by sites that you might not want to place cookies, the _vast_majority_ of them are used simply to overcome the limitations of "stateless" HTTP protocols.

But of course if you want to delete cookies that is totally your perogative. Just as it is IDG's perogative to try and measure internet traffic to its sites, and to use that information to try to offer what readers want on its sites, and to know what their readers are looking at and what they don't find interesting. Its a free world out there! :-)

We are always (see http://www.idg.net.nz/privacy) open about what we do collect from people, and what it is used for. Furthermore, we always comply with the privacy legislation here (which I have to say many companies DO NOT!).

Hope this is useful information?

Regards

Mark Evans
CTO & Online Business Manager,
IDG Communications Ltd

marke
19-05-2004, 10:55 AM
Actually Bruce - to be totally correct - the cookie is not necessary for the measurement of page traffic ... that happens anyway.

But what it does do is allow RedSheriff to measure things like "how many people who go to PC World online also go to Xtra's technology section?" ... which is useful information to publishers. It also allows the RedSheriff traffic-measurement system to determine things like "frequency" of visits.

For example, if the RedSheriff cookie is on your system, and you visit PressF1 twice in one week, RedSheriff can determine that it is one person visiting twice rather than two different people each visiting once.

However even without the cookie the page will be counted as "visited" by RedSheriff because there is code in every page to record this.

I hope this discussion goes some way towards dispelling the FUD around about cookies. I also wonder what some of the people who spend all their time deleting cookies furiously are actually worried about anyway. Do they imagine that there's some CCA (Central Cookie Agency) monitoring their every move on the internet?? :-) And if so, what is it that they're doing on the internet that they wouldn't want anybody else to know about? Reading poetry perhaps? <grin>

Mark Evans
CTO & Online Business Manager
IDG Communications

Biggles
19-05-2004, 11:24 AM
I stand corrected. You still suck at TA though .....

Baldy
19-05-2004, 11:47 AM
> Actually Bruce - to be totally correct - the cookie
> is not necessary for the measurement of page traffic
> ... that happens anyway.
>
> But what it does do is allow RedSheriff to measure
> things like "how many people who go to PC World
> online also go to Xtra's technology section?" ...
> which is useful information to publishers. It also
> allows the RedSheriff traffic-measurement system to
> determine things like "frequency" of visits.
>
> For example, if the RedSheriff cookie is on your
> system, and you visit PressF1 twice in one week,
> RedSheriff can determine that it is one person
> visiting twice rather than two different people each
> visiting once.
>
> However even without the cookie the page will be
> counted as "visited" by RedSheriff because there is
> code in every page to record this.
>
> I hope this discussion goes some way towards
> dispelling the FUD around about cookies. I also
> wonder what some of the people who spend all their
> time deleting cookies furiously are actually worried
> about anyway. Do they imagine that there's some CCA
> (Central Cookie Agency) monitoring their every move
> on the internet?? :-) And if so, what is it that
> they're doing on the internet that they wouldn't want
> anybody else to know about? Reading poetry perhaps?
> <grin>
>
> Mark Evans
> CTO & Online Business Manager
> IDG Communications

Good explanation Mark.
If people expect a free computer forum than they have to expect that the owners of the forum (IDG) have every right to use Red Sheriff to measure how many people use their site(s) This also enables them, I presume, to set the advertising rates for all advertising.
I think there is far too much paranoia about cookies.
Baldy:-)