Commet Cursor -- context (5.00 / 7) (#28)
by kmself on Thu Jun 29, 2000 at 05:04:54 AM EST
Morewriteup -- that's my middle name.
Ok, context not provided in the story. Comet Cursor is a bit of software that changes the shape of a Windows cursor as it tracks across webpages. Behind the scenes, it's sending user surfing patterns to a tracking database. The story first broke toward the end of November last year. Google turns up a number of links, relatively dispersed, so I'll repeat a few here:
- Mouse Pointer Records Clicks by Chris Oakes 3:25 p.m. Nov. 30, 1999 PST (Wired)
The maker of a simple animated mouse pointer is raising privacy concerns because the device's software surreptitiously tracks its users'
When a surfer visits Web sites that use the cursor to customize their pages, the pointer transmits a record of the visit to Comet Systems, which designed the software.
- Mouse Pointer Records Clicks cyberpunks.org:
I didn`t agree with Real.com when it was found that they were sending unique IDs embedded in their software back to the company, because they could link up your email address and preferences to the software.
- Privacy Story Moves Like a Comet By Deborah Asbrand (The Standard):
Here's how the story evolved: on Wednesday, November 24, after reading an article about Comet in Upside magazine, Richard Smith, a Mass.-based privacy advocate, visited Comet's Web site and downloaded the cursor software. When he did so, he noticed his PC sending a data packet back to Comet. Wondering what the company planned to do with the information it was retrieving, Smith e-mailed the company an inquiry about the data packet. Before hearing back from Comet, he also e-mailed fellow privacy advocate Jason Catlett, of N.J.-based Junkbusters, about his findings.
- Cursor software tracks customers -- Comet's software reports certain site visits back to company by Will Rodger (USA Today):
The Gore campaign Monday yanked a feature from its Web site after activists raised concerns it could compromise users' privacy.
- Cartoon cursor software tracks users' movements by Ted Bridis (Seattle Times):
WASHINGTON - Popular software used by more than 16 million people to change a Web browser's computer cursor into cartoon characters and other images is quietly tracking its customers across the Internet and recording which Web pages they visit.
- IP: Comet cursor in crosshairs (Mailing list post)
(Quotes USA Today story above).
- Re: RealPlayer and Comet Cursor
I, like many of the people who have replied to me, glossed over the marketroid table and just clicked "full download".
Now that the disposition of the CC software is clear, I'd like to ask another question: Why wasn't the software removed from my system after I clicked the "Add/Remove Software" button?
Comet's cursor software tracks users' Web visits
By Sandeep Junnarkar (CNet)
update Software that allows users to change their Web browser's cursor into cartoon characters has quietly been tracking the movement of its users across certain sites on the Internet.
The free cursor software offered by New York-based Comet Systems assigns each user a unique identifying serial number that is then used to track how many people are using the software and which sites those users visit. The company said that more than 60,000 Web sites support Comet's cursor software, adding that some of those sites pay Comet for that right.
- Comet Systems' cursor points to more Web advertising By Georgie Raik-Allen July 14, 1999 (Red Herring)
This is a pre-fuss story about funding rounds for Comet Systems. It's interesting to the length it goes in trying to pitch the cursor as a valuable product without saying that, uh, it tracks users surfing patterns...
"We are turning the cursor into an image that matches the advertisement or sponsorship," he says. "Consumers have trained their eyes to tune out banner ads, but it's much harder to ignore the cursor when you are using it all the time."
It sounds cool, but does a cute cursor add any real value to advertisers?
Comet Systems has gone to considerable lengths to prove that the cursor is valuable advertising space. It recently hired San Francisco research firm Milward Brown Interactive to study the effect of the cursor, in conjunction with banner ads, on advertising campaigns.
Old as this story is, IMVAO, it's very worth posting -- privacy is something you don't miss until it's gone, and the ways in which privacy can be eroded over the 'Net scare me white. Comet Systems should have this dragged up every six months (or more frequently) and have their nose rubbed in the brown smelly stuff....or doesn't anyone remember what happened to DoubleClick when they announced some rather questionable profiling practices? And which still dogs the company? (Personally concerned? Read this to do something about it).
As one of the articles mentioned, many of the websites Comet targeted were children's sites -- what are the ethics, or just plain legality -- of telling a kid to install this cool piece of software...which then tracks his or her parents' actions over the 'Net?
Here's Comet System's own pitch for the product:
Welcome to Comet Systems, the developers of the Comet Cursor .
See that boring arrow you're surfing with on this page? Let us show you how the Comet Cursor transforms it into an amazing online tool for navigation, marketing, and fun. Join the 37 million Web users who already see Comet Cursors across the Web!
New! Do you want to point online and offline with your favorite Comet Cursors? Download My Comet Cursor and take total control of your cursor space!
Who's taking "total control"....?
There is, naturally, a demure link titled "Comet Systems Commitment to User Privacy".
Karsten M. Self
SCO -- backgrounder on Caldera/SCO vs IBM
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