Issue 154: CureZone/Alexa Toolbar and Your Privacy
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You can read this newsletter online at http://curezone.com/forums/fd50.asp?f=83
In the previous newsletter, I offered you to download a toolbar with CureZone logo on it.
I have the toolbar installed on my browser, and it helps me get to CureZone quickly, it blocks pop-ups, it makes searching easier, and it quickly gives the most important info on all web sites that I visit. It also has a direct link to archived pages, where you can find previous versions of missing or edited web pages.
This toolbar is developed by Alexa (an Amazon.com company), and BY DEFAULT, IT COLLECTS AND STORES INFORMATION like your IP address, time and date, domain name, cookies, shopping preferences, search preferences and full URL of every single web page you visit.
Some people expressed a concern that similar free tools are not 100%
free. The real cost is loss of your web privacy!
Do you really want to let Amazon.com know all your shopping preferences? Do you really want them to know about all the web pages you visited, and all the searches you performed?
Well, I personally don't care. For me, benefits are higher then the cost, cost being sharing my surfing preferences with Alexa.
But there are people who do care. In this newsletter I will argue their case and I will present all info provided by Alexa. I will look at this toolbar with the critical mind. And, in the end, it will be your decision to keep it or to remove it. You can easily remove it by clicking on the main menu (marked with an arrow on the next picture).
How to uninstall the toolbar?
Alexa Toolbars may be uninstalled using your computer’s Add/Remove Programs feature. Open your Windows Start menu, go to Settings, click on Control Panel, and then double click on Add/Remove Programs. Click on Alexa and then click the remove button. The next time you open a new browser window, the toolbar should be gone.
There is just one thing that you have to know about web servers. Any web site you visit on the web, will automatically store personally identifiable information about you, like your IP address, time and date, domain name, cookies and URL of every single web page you visit on that website. That is a default behavior of a web server software. I just want you to know that what Alexa does is similar to what other sites are doing, when it comes to information gathering. The difference is, Alexa knows what you did on Yahoo, but unless you install a Yahoo toolbar, Yahoo don't know what you do while surfing on Amazon.com.
What types of information does Alexa toolbar collect?
Alexa's toolbar service collects and stores information about the web pages you view, the data you enter in online forms and search fields, and the products you purchase online while using the toolbar service. Although Alexa does not attempt to analyze web usage data to determine the identity of any Alexa user, some information collected by the toolbar service is personally identifiable. Alexa aggregates and analyzes the information it collects to improve its service and to prepare reports about aggregate web usage and shopping habits.
If you download and install the Toolbar Service software, which provides the Alexa toolbar, Alexa collects any information voluntarily provided by you during the installation and registration process, which can include your e-mail address as well as demographic information such as gender, age, occupation, household income, zip code and country. Alexa also collect the name of and information about any advertisement that brought you to the Alexa download. Any e-mail address that you give to Alexa during the installation process is kept separate from information collected during your use of the Toolbar Service and is not used to correlate your identity to Web usage path or shopping information. Demographic information is correlated to Web usage and shopping information collected during your use of the Toolbar Service, but Alexa does not attempt to determine your identity by analyzing this information.
When you download the software, and at times during your use of the Alexa website and Toolbar Service, Alexa transmits Alexa cookies to the hard drive of your computer. These cookies assign your Web browser a unique series of numbers, letters, or characters that enable Alexa's servers to recognize and identify your Web browser when you are using the Toolbar Service. They also enable Alexa to track and store information about your Web usage path and online shopping while using the Toolbar Service. See below for more information about how Alexa uses this data.
When you use the Toolbar Service, Alexa collects information about the websites you visit, the searches you perform when you use the "search" function, and the pages you view. This information allows Alexa to provide you with information about the Web page you are viewing (Alexa's Site Info) and to build Alexa's database of information about related Web pages (Alexa's Related Links). Thus, for every Web page you view while using the Toolbar Service, the Alexa software transmits and stores the following information from your computer to Alexa:
All of the above information is logged together in a single data string for each Web page you visit. Each string is logged in Alexa's database in the chronological order received from hundreds of thousands of users.When you perform searches using the search function available on alexa's toolbar service software or on the alexa website, you often will be taken to a website detail page at amazon.com. If you have an account on amazon.com and an amazon.com cookie enabled, your search results will be transmitted to and logged by amazon.com and may be correlated by amazon.com with any personally identifiable information you may have previously provided to amazon.com.
If you use the E-mail This Site feature, Alexa collects your message, the recipient e-mail address(es), and your e-mail address for the purpose of sending the e-mail. Alexa doves not send other e-mail to these address(es). If you choose, Alexa can save your e-mail address in a cookie on your computer to make this feature easier to use.
If you use Internet Explorer's Related Links feature, Alexa collect the full URL of the Web page for which you requested the Related Links information; your IP address, which may include a domain name; the date and time of your request; and computer and connection information such as browser type and version, operating system, and platform. This information is stored in the same logs as the usage paths. Alexa does not transmit cookies to your computer when you use this Internet Explorer feature. If you use Netscape's What's Related feature, Alexa receives from Netscape the URL of the Web page for which you requested the related links information with the information that appears after the "?" stripped out; your IP address, which may include a domain name; the date and time of your request; and computer and connection information such as browser type and version, operating system, and platform. Alexa does not transmit cookies to your computer when you use this Netscape feature.
How to change some options?
You can disable some options, by clicking on the main menu (marked with arrow) beside "a" (a drop down menu) and by clicking on "Options".
You will get to the web page containing options:
|Enable The Web You Made (uncheck this box if you want to protect your privacy)|
|Pre-fill search box (uncheck this box if you want to protect your privacy)|
|Enable Toolbar Hints on Startup|
|Enable Popup Manager (uncheck this box if you want to disable popup manager)|
|Show Popup Manager Status on Toolbar|
Glossary of Terms
Related Links are lists of websites that are related to the website you are viewing. Whenever you visit a Web page, the Alexa Toolbar Service retrieves information from the Alexa servers to suggest other related Web pages that might be of interest to you. Alexa's Related Links enable you to "surf" from one related site to another, discovering interesting and unique sites as you go, without having to return to a search engine.
A usage path is the trail of requests automatically transmitted to and logged by Alexa as a user surfs the Internet with the Alexa toolbar enabled. Usage paths consist of the following data for each Web page visited by an Alexa user: (a) the IP address assigned to the user; (b) the date and time the Web page is visited by the user; (c) the user's browser type and version; (d) the user's operating system and version; (e) the user's Alexa cookie; and (f) the full URL that the site assigns to the Web page.
A URL (or uniform resource locator) is the full Web address of a file or document you view when browsing the Internet. With most browsers, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, the URL of every Web page that you view is displayed in a window near the top of the screen. Typically, a URL consists of four parts: protocol, server (or domain) where the file is located, path, and filename. However, some URLs have no path or filename. An example of a URL is:
http is the protocol
www.alexa.com is the server
company/ is the path
index.html is the filename
An Internet Protocol ("IP") address is a set of numbers that is automatically assigned to your computer each time you connect to the Internet. When you use your Web browser to request a Web page from another computer on the Internet, your Web browser automatically gives that computer your IP address so that the data you request can be sent to your computer. For many users who access the Internet from a dial-up Internet service provider (ISP), the IP address will be different every time they log on ("dynamic" IP addresses); others may be assigned only one IP address that remains the same from session to session ("static" IP addresses) (more common with broadband ISPs).
A domain name identifies one or more IP addresses. Domain names are used in URLs to identify particular Web pages. For example, in the URL http://pages.alexa.com/company/index.html, the domain name is alexa.com.
A cookie is a small data file consisting of numbers, letters, or other characters that the Alexa server sends to your browser and stores on your computer's hard drive when you visit the Alexa website or download the Alexa Toolbar Service software. The Alexa servers can access this cookie when you return to the website or use the Alexa Toolbar Service. The cookie automatically identifies your computer, but not your identity, to our servers while you use the Alexa Toolbar Service or the Alexa website. If you have The Web You Made feature turned on, your cookie also contains information about the last several websites that you visited.
Amazon.com cookies may be present on your hard drive if you are already an Amazon.com customer. If you are not already an Amazon.com customer, Alexa may transmit Amazon.com cookies to your computer to enable you to put products in your Amazon.com shopping cart through the Toolbar Service. These cookies alone do not reveal your identity to Alexa, and Alexa does not use these cookies to try and learn your identity.
You can configure your browser to accept all cookies, reject all cookies, or notify you when a cookie is set. (Each browser is different, so check the "Help" menu of your browser to learn how to change your cookie preferences.) However, if a browser is set to reject cookies, it may encounter functionality problems with the Alexa Toolbar Service.
The Alexa toolbar consists of buttons or links on your Web browser and enables you to use the Alexa Toolbar Service. The toolbar provides information for each Web page a user views, including a rating for the level of traffic the page receives, reviews of the page provided by other Alexa users, contact information for the owner of the Web page, site statistics, Related Links, and, in some cases, comparison shopping information.
A browser, short for Web browser, is a software application used to locate and display Web pages. Two popular browsers are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.
A detail page is the page, displayed by either Alexa or Amazon.com, that provides details about a website, provides a user the ability to read and write reviews, and provides personalized recommendations for other websites and/or products that the user may be interested in.
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