Over 400 of the World’s Most Popular Websites Record Your Every Keystroke

The idea of websites tracking users isn’t new, but research from Princeton University released last week indicates that online tracking is far more invasive than most users understand.

In the first installment of a series titled “No Boundaries,” three researchers from Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) explain how third-party scripts that run on many of the world’s most popular websites track your every keystroke and then send that information to a third-party server.

Some highly-trafficked sites run software that records every time you click and every word you type. If you go to a website, begin to fill out a form, and then abandon it, every letter you entered in is still recorded, according to the researchers’ findings. If you accidentally paste something into a form that was copied to your clipboard, it’s also recorded. These scripts, or bits of code that websites run, are called “session replay” scripts. Session replay scripts are used by companies to gain insight into how their customers are using their sites and to identify confusing webpages. But the scripts don’t just aggregate general statistics, they record and are capable of playing back individual browsing sessions.

The scripts don’t run on every page, but are often placed on pages where users input sensitive information, like passwords and medical conditions. Most troubling is that the information session replay scripts collect can’t “reasonably be expected to be kept anonymous,” according to the researchers.

Phone zombies on the road

“It’s People Like Us uses dashboard cameras to capture the driving behaviour of five young motorists, all of whom willingly signed up to the project, and each of whom is revealed as a serial offender when it comes to using their mobile phones while driving.”

“A computer with ‘eyes’ — see the future of computing with eye tracking”

Our World Today

Distracted. Addicted. Alone Together. Emotionally dead. Disengaged from the real world. A parody of itself.

Animation by Steve Cutts. Music by Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, These Systems Are Failing.

Steven Rambam at HOPE XI, 2016

“First came the assault on privacy. Name, address, telephone, DOB, SSN, physical description, friends, family, likes, dislikes, habits, hobbies, beliefs, religion, sexual orientation, finances, every granular detail of a person’s life, all logged, indexed, analyzed and cross-referenced. Then came the gathering of location and communication data. Cell phones, apps, metro cards, license plate readers and toll tags, credit card use, IP addresses and authenticated logins, tower info, router proximity, networked “things” everywhere reporting on activity and location, astoundingly accurate facial recognition mated with analytics and “gigapixel” cameras and, worst of all, mindlessly self-contributed posts, tweets, and “check-ins,” all constantly reporting a subject’s location 24-7-365, to such a degree of accuracy that “predictive profiling” knows where you will likely be next Thursday afternoon. Today we are experiencing constant efforts to shred anonymity. Forensic linguistics, browser fingerprinting, lifestyle and behavior analysis, metadata of all types, HTML5, IPv6, and daily emerging “advances” in surveillance technologies – some seemingly science fiction but real – are combining to make constant, mobile identification and absolute loss of anonymity inevitable. And, now, predictably, the final efforts to homogenize: the “siloing” and Balkanization of the Internet. As Internet use becomes more and more self-restricted to a few large providers, as users increasingly never leave the single ecosystem of a Facebook or a Google, as the massive firehose of information on the Internet is “curated” and “managed” by persons who believe that they know best what news and opinions you should have available to read, see, and believe, the bias of a few will eventually determine what you believe. What is propaganda? What is truth? You simply won’t know. In a tradition dating back to the first HOPE conference, for three full hours Steven Rambam will detail the latest trends in privacy invasion and will demonstrate cutting-edge anonymity-shredding surveillance technologies. Drones will fly, a “privacy victim” will undergo digital proctology, a Q&A period will be provided, and fun will be had by all.”

The Outrage Machine

This short video explores how the online world has overwhelmingly become the popular outlet for public rage by briefly illustrating some of the many stories of everyday people which have suddenly become public enemy number one under the most misunderstood of circumstances and trivial narratives. With the web acting like a giant echo-chamber, amplifying false stories and feeding on the pent-up aggression of the audience watching the spectacle, The Outrage Machine shows how these systems froth the mob mentality into a hideous mess, as a good example of where the spectacle goes and how its intensity has to keep ratcheting up in order maintain the audience attention, in a culture of dwindling attention spans, distraction and triviality.

Filmmaker and author Jon Ronson also recently wrote a book about this topic too, which is quite good. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. His TED talk is essentially a 17 min overview:

And a longer presentation with interview and Q&A from earlier this year:

Put It in The Robot

The Next Wave of Google Robots

Boston Dynamics, well known as a developer of robots for the United States military as part of the “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,” has publicised its “next generation” of androids and robots.

Boston Dynamics was sold to Google in 2013.

Resistance is NOT Futile (ACCAN Debate, 2015)

We are free if we opt out of an endless regime of upgrades. Make the choice today to opt-out. I am not saying don’t use and don’t exploit the brilliance of mobile telephony, wi-fi, iphones and ipads and the Internet… I am talking about keeping oneself in check. Our feet are on the ground but sometimes we act as if we live in the Clouds. #getreal

“Internet of Things” — Doll

What Stores See When They Spy on Shoppers

“Live Version of Google Earth” used for mass surveillance by police

LA County Sheriff’s Department in Compton, California deploy aerial real-time surveillance, unbeknownst to residents.

The technology is called “Wide Area Surveillance.”

The Spying Lamp “Conversnitch”

Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics

“This short video reveals the hazards of the electronics industry in China profiling workers poisoned by chemicals and their struggle for compensation.

Thousands of young people in China enter export factories to make the West’s favorite electronic gadgets, only to find they have contracted occupational diseases or worse, leukemia, by the age of 25.”

Addiction by Design

Natasha Dow Schull, Cultural Anthropologist from MIT talking on addiction and slot machines.

Swarming Nano Quadrotors

Cypherpunks (2012)

The Story of Electronics

The Story of Electronics explores the high-tech revolution’s collateral damage—25 million tons of e-waste and counting, poisoned workers and a public left holding the bill. Host Annie Leonard takes viewers from the mines and factories where our gadgets begin to the horrific backyard recycling shops in China where many end up. The film concludes with a call for a green ‘race to the top’ where designers compete to make long-lasting, toxic-free products that are fully and easily recyclable. Our production partner on the electronics film is the Electronics TakeBack Coalition, which promotes green design and responsible recycling in the electronics industry.