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Servicing customers

By adamsc in News
Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 09:13:16 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

This article describes a company (eWatch) which will help companies track down people who say uncomplimentary things about them, provide a full dossier on that individual and apparently attempt to have the remarks removed.


In addition to all of the legal issues (e.g. that pesky first amendment, to say nothing about posts on foreign servers through anonymizers), it seems somewhat absurd for a company to spend $5,000 or more attempting to silence an unsatisfied customer instead of doing something crazy like improving their product and/or service. Similarly, if your employees are that disgruntled, perhaps it would be better to improve conditions than go after the few who speak up.

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Servicing customers | 31 comments (14 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
I know eWatch from the pointed end (5.00 / 3) (#16)
by h2odragon on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 08:29:19 PM EST

(1st topical post! take that, PD)

I assist with several sites for organizations who take (in context) unpopular political positions at times. I noticed eWatch, oh, I guess over a year ago, as a rather impolite web spider that also had a completely deceptive User-Agent string. They don't take any masking actions with the client DNS, so it wasn't too long before I started looking through their website.

They were reading the whole site, daily... I was developing web log summarizers at the time, and I noticed them through the spike in a particular user-agent string ("Mozilla/4.04 [en] (Win95; I)" if that's all the user-agent you get, you know it's them, oddly enough it's now virtually unique). Though all the propaganda on their site is technically legitimate, the fact that they go to some lengths to disguise their activity says something about them.

The primitive behavior of their software doesn't reflect well on them either. They've taken the aformentioned non-effective method of hiding the fact that they're watching a site, but apparently given little thought to watching politely. They load every page on my small, static site just under once a day on average, with never a query for robots.txt, never an "If-Modified-Since", so we don't have to send them the couple of big files we do host here, that never change.

At these prices, they can afford to waste money on bandwidth; that server is on an ISDN line and we have trouble with that bill. If a one time research project costs $5k; what does this kind of service cost? Wouldn't it be cheaper for them to arrange for me to send them a .tgz every night? I could set up a cron job. Should we, as a target of their service, have any right to to know why they're monitoring us so closely, and to what use that data is put?

I'd like to know, but I don't care enough to justify devoting the time it'd take to make much noise about it. If they let their spider loose on the sites where I'd care about its uncivil attitude, I'll block their subnets at the router.

(OK, two more editorial notes: "topical" should be the defualt comment posting mode, and k5 still lacks one essential ingeridiment for the noise to drown the signal: karma.)

Re: I know eWatch from the pointed end (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by adamsc on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 10:11:52 PM EST

I'd like to know, but I don't care enough to justify devoting the time it'd take to make much noise about it. If they let their spider loose on the sites where I'd care about its uncivil attitude, I'll block their subnets at the router.
I almost think it'd be a public service to set up an innocent looking random word generator and flood their spider. Not using robots.txt would justify a spider jail in my book.

[ Parent ]
Re: I know eWatch from the pointed end (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by fluffy grue on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 12:32:24 AM EST

http://hobbes.nmsu.edu has three of them from the CGI-based browser. Can you find them all? :) (I use it for trapping spam-address harvesters. It's quite effective.)
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Spider chow (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by error 404 on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 12:52:04 PM EST

This could be a lot of fun. Way more fun than the generic spam-spider traps.

Build some chattering bots that spew reams of random strings of company names and unpleasant adjectives and violent nouns.

Connect the bots to your 404 processing, and you have an infinite (well, within the potential namespace, so it isn't actualy infinite, but there aren't that many hydrogen nuclei in the universe) number of pages to be examined.

And since the spider is identifiable, you don't have to bother the real readers.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

Karma?! (3.00 / 2) (#21)
by fluffy grue on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 12:44:52 AM EST

Karma is, IMO, what ruined Slashdot. On one hand, you had claims of people being pseudo-insightful karma whores, and on the other hand, you had people being pseudo-insightful karma whores. This only led to an even greater schizm and level of resentment.

No, what K5 *needs* is that reputation-based system that they have at advogato. Not simple "experience points." :P
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

This be messed up! (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by thelaw on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 09:20:50 PM EST

i've always dreamed about stuff like this. it's kinda cool, in a big-brother-ish sort of way. but it's probably the most perniciious type of privaacy monitoring.

i think these days we don't have so much to fear from the government (at least in the US), but more from private entrepreneurs who want to stick their noses where they don't belong. so now it's not big brother, it's doubleclick... i mean big business.

(i obviously don't mean all big businesses are bad... but when silencing opposition becomes a goal over and beyond customer satisfaction, it kinda makes me long for the days of customer service, when the bottom line was seen as the long-term goal, not the short-term goal. that would have been earlier this decade, and part of the previous. that's the only part of my lifetime where that was the case. :)

jon



Re: This be messed up! (4.00 / 2) (#18)
by thelaw on Mon Jul 10, 2000 at 09:52:10 PM EST

this occured to me while browsing the ewatch website....

rusty, does ewatch kuro5hin.org? that would be a very interesting twist to the little story... :)

jon

[ Parent ]
ewatch kuro5hin? (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by h2odragon on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 11:33:47 AM EST

Of course the answer to that is "they do now..." Actually, tho, I went through some logs last night and they've missed me for the last 4 days, which is unprecedented. Perhaps they scaled back their operations in preparation for the BW article?

[ Parent ]
Re: This be messed up! (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 02:04:52 PM EST

Privacy monitoring? If you post something publicly, where is your expectation of privacy?

[ Parent ]
Re: This be messed up! (none / 0) (#29)
by thelaw on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 07:43:17 PM EST

very good point... i guess my main idea was that it's generally considered invasive to scour the public record looking for nasty things that people might have said about something or someone. more precisely, i would be a little concerned if someone got paid to sit down at a local library and scour all past newspapers, television interviews and radio broadcasts for things that i (as a private citizen) had said.

jon

[ Parent ]
Nerdperfect! Just to give Stat some mo' props (1.00 / 2) (#22)
by TheLocust on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 01:42:38 AM EST

The way this story got started was that Statgrape over at NerdPerfect posted this. I "stole" it and posted it to Slashdot. Here's the article @Slashdot. Just thought i'd give props to Statgrape. Good catch, you hoser (hehe).
.......o- thelocust -o.........
ignorant people speak of people
average people speak of events
great people speak of ideas

eWatch and Cluetrain (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 08:36:28 AM EST

The message of the Cluetrain is that markets are conversations. eWatch lets compaines go one step beyond refusing to take delivery: now they can try to stop the train in its tracks. Personally, I hope they get run over.

Ohhh please stop diddling ! (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by gelfling on Tue Jul 11, 2000 at 08:22:33 PM EST

It's obvious that the site has to be attacked and destroyed systematically and the people who work there have to be harrassed and threatened. All this debating is silly. All this complaining is just that, complaining. No, the time is for action.

Go ahead. You first. (none / 0) (#31)
by marlowe on Fri Jul 14, 2000 at 12:34:56 PM EST

We'll throw a party for you when you get out.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Servicing customers | 31 comments (14 topical, 17 editorial, 0 hidden)
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