cannabisnews.com: Anti-Drug Web Site Tracks Visitors





Anti-Drug Web Site Tracks Visitors
Posted by FoM on June 21, 2000 at 23:02:34 PT
By John F. Harris & John Schwartz
Source: Washington Post
News that the White House drug control office is secretly placing digital bugs on the computers of people who visit one of its Web sites caused an uproar yesterday, prompting White House Chief of Staff John D. Podesta to order the practice stopped. Podesta also demanded an explanation from Barry R. McCaffrey, director of the National Drug Control Policy Office, for how the practice of monitoring traffic through dropping electronic "cookies" on the hard drives of Web visitors began, White House officials said.
The surreptitious tracking by one of its own agencies was especially embarrassing to the White House, because it contradicts privacy policies that the Clinton administration is advocating for the private sector.The Scripps-Howard News Service reported that cookies--a fairly simple computer code--were being slipped without notice on computers to monitor the effectiveness of an online anti-drug campaign.The ad campaign worked in much the same way as other advertising that is linked to Web search engines. When Web users typed in certain key words relating to drugs, a banner ad would pop up on the screen inviting them to click on www.freevibe.com, an anti-drug site run by the drug control office. If people clicked on the site, a cookie was dropped onto their hard drives. The cookie's code allows the advertiser to see how the user entered the site, and what pages were entered once there.The use of cookies without notice or permission is a controversial, though commonplace, practice in the private sector. The Federal Trade Commission has sought greater authority to set and enforce privacy standards, and Vice President Gore recently has made privacy an increasingly prominent campaign theme.In a statement, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said the drug control office had not tracked visitors by name or otherwise identified them. But he emphasized that West Wing officials "learned for the first time" yesterday about the office's use of cookies, and pledged, "We will take all steps necessary to halt these practices now."Don Maple, who helps run the media campaign for the drug control office, said that officials there had believed the use of cookies was defensible. The office's advertising is placed by Ogilvy & Mather, which in turn contracted with DoubleClick Inc., the leading Internet advertising company. DoubleClick placed the cookies and reported the data back to Ogilvy & Mather, he said."The idea was that our advertising buyers wanted and needed a tool to decide where to place their banner ads," Maple said, adding that only "anonymous gross-number data" about Web visits were collected in what the drug control office believed was a way of determining whether it was spending its money wisely."We discovered we had underestimated the sensitivity of the White House to this practice," Maple said. He pledged that the contractors "would destroy whatever data" have been collected.McCaffrey's operation stirred objections from civil libertarians a year after reports that the drug control office allowed TV networks to fulfill their obligation for public service advertising if they agreed to run programs with a government-approved anti-drug message. This time, he will also face questions from Congress. Rep. W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) is sending a letter voicing strong opposition to the use of cookies and demanding an explanation of how they came to be used, his spokesman Ken Johnson said yesterday.While the drug control office knew about the cookies used on freevibe.com, Maple said the office learned only this week after news inquiries that cookies were also being dropped by the Web server for another site run by the office, this one aimed at parents and called theantidrug.com. That practice too is being halted, he said.The drug control office's use of cookies was discovered by privacy advocate Richard M. Smith, who said he found it earlier this year while doing research on the privacy practices of health-related Web sites.DoubleClick has become one of the most reviled companies in the online world among privacy advocates, who have attacked its use of Internet cookies and more advanced technologies to monitor consumer behavior. The firm says the practice allows Web ads to be more tailored for advertisers and consumers alike, and that information is not shared. "It is totally anonymous. It is not used for profiling. It is the property of that site and it is not shared with anyone else," said Josh Isay, director of public policy and government affairs for DoubleClick.Smith said that none of his research proves that DoubleClick or the drug policy office has been spying on Americans, only that the technology would allow either to do so. "The problem is . . . DoubleClick is gathering all this information about us that's really none of their business . . . they're creating databases that could be interesting to law enforcement down the road."By John F. Harris and John SchwartzWashington Post Staff WritersThursday, June 22, 2000; Page A23 2000 The Washington Post Company Related Article:White House Drug Office Tracks Computer Visitorshttp://cannabisnews.com/news/thread6117.shtml
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Comment #12 posted by voodoo on June 23, 2000 at 19:18:23 PT
Parlor tricks
Printer lockup with %downloaded thingy stuck sounds like a browser problem rendering the page. Most probably due to sloppy or non-supported HTML.Try printing it using a different browser (Netscape or IE). If it does the same thing, it's javascript voodoo. If it prints fine, then the other browser doesn't like the web page's HTML and it's quite harmless.
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Comment #11 posted by dirt on June 23, 2000 at 18:22:42 PT
More two cents
D.I.R.T. is basically Back Orifice 2000, a "network security" tool developed by a hacker group called the Cult of the Dead Cow to exploit the lax security in Windows software. Codex latched on to the software and started marketing it to law enforcement as an evidence gathering tool to fight the scourge of drugs, terrorism and child pornography on the net. The really scary part is not that D.I.R.T. or Back Orifice exists, it's the legislation that they've been trying to enact which legally allows the feds to break in to your computer, install the keystroke-trapping back door, and gather evidence - all without your knowledge.When you hear of bills being floated around allowing secret warrants and "sneek-and-peek" clandestine visits, this is the stuff they're trying to get on people's computer systems. Otherwise, they have to float the back door programs disguised as viruses such as "Happy99.exe" in Usenet, E-mail, etc. and hope that people are stupid and run the program , which happens fairly frequently.Bottom line, Windows is not secure (speculation is that there is a NSA_KEY buried in their crypto routines for decoding by Your Friendly Spy Agency, which also brought you the friendly ECHELON system). Ever wonder why so many people get stopped on Interstate and nailed while transporting contraband? Local law enforcement is tipped off by the feds who have been listening in on your phone conversations and tracking your electronic communications, then the locals just follow and wait for a traffic violation so they can swoop down legally.If you arbitrarily run programs that people send you as attachments or download from the net, then you're a sitting duck for getting back doors installed on your system.
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Comment #10 posted by dddd on June 22, 2000 at 17:30:44 PT
Kanabys
If these occurances are "parlor tricks",,then they are some of the best ones I've ever seen.I have a hard time imagining,why they would go to such lengths to make some harmless "parlour trick" joke.Who knows,,perhaps there is someone up there just having cheap fun at our expense.....dddd
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Comment #9 posted by kanabys on June 22, 2000 at 15:27:41 PT
i went too
I went to that codex site because I didn't care at the moment, i'm on a Univ. computer. but I think that % counting thingy is just to scare you. I didn't see any HDD activity going on during it. I may be wrong but I think it's just a parlor trick.
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on June 22, 2000 at 12:51:02 PT
Thanks Dave and Everyone!
Thanks Dave for all this good information. I know on the Political Board of http://www.cannabis.com/ where I post when not here they installed an optional security feature which is working very nicely so far. We just got it yesterday or the day before and is appreciated by me for sure.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #7 posted by Dave in Florida on June 22, 2000 at 12:17:39 PT
Proxies
Also always go through an anonymous proxy..Try this site http://cavency.virtualave.net/proxy/Select ENV1, ENV2, JENV and see what you get ! For a list of good anonymous proxies go here:http://209.67.19.98/lycos_webmaster/plist.html
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on June 22, 2000 at 12:11:20 PT
My 2 Cents
I don't use cookies and I keep my video, audio and java off. I move much more soomthly too. I know I don't lock up with all this stuff off and when I need it I turn it on then off. I don't think this helps too much with security. I really don't know but I was told to do this when I was being hacked and it sure seemed to help.Peace, FoM!
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Comment #5 posted by Dave in Florida on June 22, 2000 at 11:22:22 PT
Javascript
Dan B>Mind you, a Javascript message was running at the bottom of the screen saying "Imagine if you could get into anyone'scomputer..." then, "Imagine if you could steal all of their files...," and at this point it started counting--"1% complete, 2% complete, 3% complete...," and I expected it to stop at some point, but it kept on running! I tried twice more to print out the page, and my browser locked up. I immediately shut down the computer, then restarted it and came here to write this message.  FWIW, I never have javascript enabled, java yes, javascript, NEVER. Also always have cookies turned off or at the least, "warn before accepting" "that are sent back to the originating server". When I go to cannabis sites that ask for a cookie, I wonder who is running the site, and I never accept the cookie. I think that the pro pot sites should not use javascript at all or send out cookies. Most of us that may have smoked for 30 years want to remain somewhat anonymous for now...  The only time I do accept a cookie is when I am at my online broker. Also I use a cable modem as well, and I did print the offending page no problem. And with regards to the other post, I don't have a clue as to what it all means as far as mice and people. I would like to see all of the long term midnite tokers come out of our respective closets somtime. I fear that most of us have far to much to lose though. 
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Comment #4 posted by Dan B on June 22, 2000 at 06:02:13 PT:
After Visiting Codex
I went to the Codex site LOBO linked us to, and I was not only shocked at the content, bu at what happened when I tried to print the page. The first time I tried to print it out, my browser shut down and the icon to bring it back up went dead. I shut down and restarted my computer, went back to the site (thinking maybe it was some kind of fluke), and tried to print it again. Mind you, a Javascript message was running at the bottom of the screen saying "Imagine if you could get into anyone's computer..." then, "Imagine if you could steal all of their files...," and at this point it started counting--"1% complete, 2% complete, 3% complete...," and I expected it to stop at some point, but it kept on running! I tried twice more to print out the page, and my browser locked up. I immediately shut down the computer, then restarted it and came here to write this message.Folks, there are some strange things going on with that site, and I think we can get something done about it. We have a lot of very vocal people here, and I think we should al consider writing our congresspersons, the president, etc. and see what we can do to get these guys shut down. Privacy is a fundamental right in this country, and I don't care why they are developing this software (their pretext is, of course, to catch the "bad guys"--a frightening concept, considering that they ultimately get to decide who the bad guys are--and anyway, they'll have to go through a lot of "good guys" to get to the supposed "bad guys"), it is blatantly illegal. Even they admit that it is illegal--as they brag about their ability to steal people's passwords and other personal information (credit card numbers, bank balances--the list is as long as the information you have stored on your computer).So, let's get the word out. Write your local newspapers. Write your congresspersons. Let the world know about these creeps, and maybe we can shut them down. 
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Comment #3 posted by kaptinemo on June 22, 2000 at 05:08:30 PT:
Port scanners
4D, and everyone who didn't know, the US Gov always uses a port probes on their systems to see what ports you have open on your machine... to gain entry to it and if need be, rifle the contents of your hard drive. With regards to security, I'd strongly suggest the installation of a port scanner on your own PC. It will slow your operations down quite a lot, but at least you will know when someone is sizing you up.Also, I'd STRONGLY recommend everyone reading this to follow Lobo's link and read up on this particular bit of nasty software.I would also suggest that you might want to take a look at another one of Big Brother's escapades, this time with Ollie's Boys *stealing* software. And using it to perform electronic espionage on people *they* fraudulently sold it to.  
http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a3691e2526c13.htm
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Comment #2 posted by LOBO on June 22, 2000 at 02:40:06 PT
Spies everywhere
If you believe anything in this articale that is said By Lockhart or the drug control office then you haven't learned a thing from sites like this ! The goverment can an will spy on you anytime they get ready!Even with encription software never think your messages or classified documents are safe ! Here Is just one example of software that is available to our goverment!http://www.codexdatasystems.com/cdsnews.htmlWith this kind of software out there an now with the cookie thing do you really believe there isn't a whole host of other ways for the goverment to track you online ! Someone with more stroke then me really needs to check into this an see if they are useing software of this kind ! I think according to the computer an fraud abuse act of 1984 this would be an illegal act for our goverment to use this tool without a search warrant! Here is a link explaining the law in situations like this !http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/2511.html
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Comment #1 posted by dddd on June 22, 2000 at 01:14:43 PT
macaroons
First of all,,Doubleclick has a history of loose and shady behavior concerning privacy,and selling info databases derived from cookies.Look at it this way;Doubleclick is a professional cookie implimenter. Perhaps the worst part of this,,is that there are people who will actually believe things like; ""The idea was that our advertising buyers wanted and needed a tool to decide where to place their banner ads,"Maple said, adding that only "anonymous gross-number data" about Web visits were collected in what the drugcontrol office believed was a way of determining whether it was spending its money wisely."or"In a statement, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said the drug control office had not tracked visitors byname or otherwise identified them. But he emphasized that West Wing officials "learned for the first time"yesterday about the office's use of cookies, and pledged, "We will take all steps necessary to halt these practicesnow." How silly...... If you want a real spooky experience,,,,,,,,,,,last year I had a cable modem,really fast,,,,,one night I started surfing around government sites,wandering about thru the c i a,d e a,n s a,,etc...and the cookies were everywhere,,,as usual I was not accepting any of them.. What happened next is hard to believe.I wont blame you if you dont believe it..... ....I am really into my computer,and I know it quite well.I had been using this cable modem ,(  home),connection for over a year.......anyway,,,while carelessly surfing thru these ",gov" sites,my computer froze up,yet I could hear the hard drive flying,and data was flying out according to the indicater on the modem unit.The browser refused to force quit,I couldnt believe it,,I unplugged the computer and modem.I had the creeps.I'm not sure what was happening,but I am quite certain it was not a malfunction of my computer...A coupla weeks later,I decided to try it again,just to disprove my theory.After surfing about the same areas,,,the same thing happened.My computer had never done anything like this before,and hasnt since........Most Peculiar....dddd
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