Your Privacy

tl;dr version:

  1. I have a voyeuristic urge to see which pages of my blog are most popular.
  2. I run an open-source web analytics package that will track your visits to pages on this site only. This literally cannot track your visits anywhere else.
  3. It sets a first-party cookie. This literally cannot track your visits anywhere else.
  4. It does not collect personally identifiable information.
  5. You can set do-not-track, disable JavaScript, or stop visiting my blog to opt out of the web analytics.
  6. My server (like almost all web servers) logs IP addresses, timestamps, URLs, referrers, and user agents. You can stop visiting my blog to opt out of server logging.
  7. If you don’t opt-out, I’m assuming you’re OK with me seeing where you go on my blog.
  8. If you put an email address into the comment form, it’s only visible to me (not the world).

Longer version:

I am opposed to web tracking. I don’t like big corporations trying to piece together a profile of me and my visits to major sites through tracking cookies, eTag abuse, etc. However, I also would like more information on visits to my blog than is possible through analyzing server log files.

This site runs Piwik, an open-source web analytics software. This differs from, say, the ubiquitous Google Analytics in that the analytics data is not sent to a third party; it is analyzed by my own server and viewed only by me. Piwik tries to set a first-party (not third-party) tracking cookie that only functions on this site. It also use a small JavaScript applet to gather data. Neither of these tools work on other websites.

I find this to be a reasonable balance between your privacy and my benefit. Since the tracking utility is localized, I only have access to data about your visits here. (This would be true to an extent even if I wasn’t running Piwik–as with most websites, the blog’s webserver automatically logs IP addresses, URLs requested,  referrers, and user agents. The logs are useful for figuring out which IPs are trying to brute-force my admin credentials…) This localization is a major improvement over a third-party utility such as Google Analytics, which is used on many, many different websites, which in turn means that Google can easily correlate your activities across websites to build up a profile on you. That is a big no-no in my book.

If you would like to opt out, you have a few options:

  1. Set the Do-Not-Track option in your browser. Piwik is one of the few pieces of software that I know of that actually respects this setting! Look in your browser’s documentation to see how to set this option. It adds a field to the headers your browser sends out telling advertisers that you don’t want to be tracked.
  2. Disable JavaScript. This also throws a monkey-wrench into many other analytics software. If you’re of technical inclination and/or just want to make advertisers’ days miserable, try Firefox’s NoScript plugin. Do note that this plugin breaks most websites when it’s in its “whitelist” mode, but it is incredibly powerful (and useful for stopping flash ads from auto-playing). While you’re installing Firefox plugins, you should also have AdBlock Plus, which is much more user friendly. Don’t browse without it!
  3. Don’t visit my site. I’m not being tongue-in-cheek here. If you really are opposed to a lone blogger having access to any information about you (such as the fact that you exist or like reading sarcastic blogs), this is the most sure-fire way to do it. This is also the only way that you won’t show up in my server logs.

If you don’t opt-out, I’m assuming you’re OK with me seeing where you go on my blog. Really, I think it’s a fair trade. I see which pages you visit and for how long, which search engine sent you here, etc, and you get my acerbic humor, menacing magniloquence, and all-around general sarcasm, not to mention technical advice and semi-amusing anecdotes.

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