Sunday, November 30, 2008

How the Widget stole your privacy

So many bloggers are using it, including me (depending on when you are reading this). The widget in question here is FEEDJIT. Not the harmless one below my Followers list, but the one further down the rightmost column below the Blog Networks Badge. While some feel it's a fast way to get them to leave your blog, others see it as an infringement of their privacy. In case you still haven't noticed, FEEDJIT shows YOUR location (City), and the address of the page where you clicked on my Blog's Link. If you click on 'Watch in Real-Time', you'll see your as well as the previous 50 visitors' location, Browser (Name and version), Operating System (Name and version), the precise URL of the page from which they arrived on my page (and precisely which one), and the exact time when they did so. You can also see at what point of time they clicked on which of the links present on my page. And, in case they arrived via a search engine, it'll also tell you the query searched. Sample this:

As you can see, a certain user from Delhi, using IE 7.0 on his Windows-XP landed on my blog when wanting to see Rape Videos. I don't know who he is, but I am pretty sure this is not the kind of information he had wanted to give out in the open. While it is alright for me as a blog administrator to have access to all this data (which I could have had anyways through SiteMeter or Google Analytics, and which I can use to improve my website), it doesn't make sense exposing all these to any random net-surfer.

This may not seem that offensive initially, but consider this. A certain friend of mine lives in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, and most other friends of mine know about her. The time when she visits my blog, how much time she spends surfing it, which links does she exit from, is all visible to my friends, since I do not have many readers from Srinagar, and not many Linux users amongst them as well. She wants to remove her traces from the Widget, but surely wouldn't dream that she'd have to click on "Watch in Real-Time" first, from where she'll get an option to remove her IP. And by the way, she has to do that every time she visits my blog. Supposedly, FEEDJIT also has an option to ignore all future visits from being recorded, but fnding the "ignore my browser" button is more difficult than finding Sudan on a World Map. Besides, this works one-site-at-a-time, so you have to activate this cookie every time you visit a new FEEDJIT-enabled site. And in case you clean your cookies often, you're back to square one each time.

In case you are wondering why I've put FEEDJIT at all, or why I posted this all of a sudden, it's actually because recently a friend told me he prefers reading my blog feeds rather than visit it due to the presence of this widget. As I found out, there were indeed many annoyed by this widget and uncomfortable with it's presence on any website, especially blogs.

While the opting out option is practically invisible, would it matter even if it was visible? Would you have clicked if there were an opt-in option instead of opt-out? I would let FEEDJIT remain there for a week more from now for you to see before removing it. Comments and views are welcome.



Ashish said...

hey shrey..........I remember how I told u about that feedjit thing........orkut communities???
lolzz.....I'm sure that would also have contributed to this thought of writing a post on feedjit???
nyways...nice fundaeessss on feedjit

Adrien said...

FEEDJIT is the equivalent of a peeping Toms, and most of my friends have removed it. For me, the problem was that I could not comment without visiting your blog. I hope we see no more of this Widget on the next visit.

Kaber said...

Correcto.. remove it man.. and tell your friend not to add it too. allowing only the admin to view it is a better way of doing things


Anywhichway said...

Thats quite a disturbing little tool and what I would take as a horrible invasion of privacy, although yes I know that there are a million such ways of tracking anyone online.
I happened to just stumble upon your post, and its been more than a week and the Feedjit widget is still available so thought you might want a reminder to remove it as promised!

Wretha said...

I enjoy being able to "track" where my visitors come from and how they found my site, BUT I have a huge problem with Feedjit, it is an invasion of privacy. Feedjit posts the town where I live everytime I visit a site that uses it, yes I can go in on each and every one and tell Feedjit to ignore my browser, but it's still plastered there until it rolls off the page, I realize that most trackers give the same information, but you have to at least click on a few links to get to the page that shows that information, they don't usually plaster your city/town name right there on the first page.

Why doesn't Feedjit make it possible to ignore my browser on ALL sites that use it, not after the fact, but ALL THE TIME? I have emailed Feedjit about this, I have posted a comment on their blog. I don't know how much good it will do, but I'll keep working on them, hopefully they will see the light eventually.


tambal said...

I find it useful to track places and concerns of my visitors and even the keywords they are looking for, it gives me a good idea what information i can include in my posts in order to be more useful.

but I agree 100% that it is ugly to put it in the public page of the website. but those who what to utilize it and in the same time conceal it from the public

this way the tracker is still functioning but without being seen to the visitors