Should have known as much, this is pretty nasty stuff if I understand what's /. is doing correctly. Is is me or does it seem like /. is deliberately hiding the fact that it is tracking user data, knowing that its users are wary of ads served by ad agencies? Don't have 100% knowledge of whats going on but it sure appears that way.
www.slashcode.com - look at the source code (or even the database schematics). There you will see that slash tracks absolutely everything any user does; what pages they look at, the comments you previewed but didn't post, the slashboxes you have flagged up. This is not hidden from view.
In comparison, these 1x1 gifs let them know that somebody at your ip address, with your $user-agent, looked at a page. Andover already know everything they would possibly want to know without these .gifs. If privacy is a concern, don't get a user account, these 1x1 pixels are the least of your worries.
Beyond that is it really even necessary from an advertisers point of view to collect all that data from /. users?
Nope, but if they want to get paid for their adverts they have to provide evidence of page views. Saying "look at our database" doesn't work, cos anyone with a perl script and a few spare processor cycles could create a new database containing five times as many advert-views. So these 1x1 gifs are page tracking things run by third-partys to guarantee that andover is actually serving these ads. Hence the non-andover IP adresses.
I've got a sneaking suspicion this whole issue is going to explode into the general public within a year or two. All it takes is a slow news day, a couple angry moms and an aggresive reporter.
Most of the world is suspicous of computers anyway, and will say "Oh look, a website logs info on me. So What". At least in some countries we've already got the right to ask for that info though. :-p
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