Privacy, Stasi and UTM trackers

  about 970 words   5 min


Trackers ! I hate them ! Every day is a battle to keep your privacy!

And YES … Maybe I'm getting more and more paranoid like Gene Hackman in Enemy of the state but every time a friend is sharing a link with all the UTM crap (you know the kind of link that just looks like this and you wonder why it is so fucking long) :

That makes me want to slap him in the face.

And actually, this example is pretty short because sometimes you have 4 lines+ of details you don't care. In that link, every thing after article.php should be stripped off because it's just a way to get a customer profile based on your web browsing to “better” target you with customized ads.

To understand how they do it and block it, we should know what all these lines stand for.

UTM means Urchin Tracking Module. Urchin was a company doing analytics bought by Google in 2005. It's forming the Google analytics that everybody knom and use today. They stopped selling the product in 2012 mainly to push their new rebranded tool. Ironically, back at that time I used to update that software for a client where I was contracting. And even then it was faulty, not on the privacy side but on a lot of other technical reasons.

There are 5 arguments they add to track you online :

  1. &utm_source

That parameter will track where you are coming from. It can be any website, social network or email list. If you come from twitter this will be added to your url &utm_source=twitter

  1. &utm_medium

This one tracks what type of traffic the visitor originated from – cpc, email, social, referral, display, etc. By example: &utm_medium=social

  1. &utm_campaign

It's all about how they define their campaigns.

  1. &utm_content

This one will let them know if you have clicked or not their links. Maybe some other things that I'm not aware of.

By example: &utm_content=navlink

  1. &utm_term

This one is used for the paid search ads to know what keyword you used.

Why remove them

A lot of friends tend to tell me :

  • “I have nothing to hide”
  • “I prefer to have targeted ads than something I don't care”
  • “I haven't done anything illegal”
  • “You're paranoid”

Just because I like this quote and because it sums up my idea, André Malraux said :

A man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.

I do think that everybody should have a little inner sanctum. Your fears and joys that you want to keep for yourself because you may think people will judge or misunderstand what your feelings are.

I have a lot of arguments to demonstrate why you should care about privacy and I will probably write about it at some point. For now, the best I can do is to encourage you to watch this documentary dating from 2017 and still pretty accurate :

Nothing To Hide

For those who pay for Netflix, there is also a horror movie about the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook fiasco :

The Great Hack

The Stasi

Today everyone is giving for free details about his private life and that's incredible sad ! A couple of years ago, a big scandal broke out about how people from Germany, but not only, were spied.

Do you remember the Stasi ?

To summarize it was the bad bad secret police of East Germany who used to train a lot of dictatures about their techniques, to operates killing squads and to make decisions harming a pretty good amount of people around the globe. Their favourite hobby, if we can call it like that, was to spy on every person in Germany during the Cold War. Its main task was to get as much as possible information about the population. These operations led to the arrest of 250.000 people judged as dissidents against the government. They used to have a large network of informants over Germany but also around Europe with the help of the KGB.

Imagine how happy they would have been today with all these technologies spying on us for free and on our goodwill. A godsend for any little chief living in a dystopia.

They have kept information about 5.6 million of people and the archive represents 111 kilometers of files in total. That's a drop compared to what the NSA has grabbed about people around the globe during the lastt years.

Here is how big the Stasi archive was


and here … wait for it … the NSA !!

NSA archive

It represents 17 … million square kilometers !

When the german government opened the Stasi Pandora's box, everyone, in Germany and worldwide, was shocked to learn that some of your close friends or even your wife/husband gave information about yourself to the stasi regime. That was well depicted in the 2006 movie, The Lives of Others where the main actor Ulrich Mühe found out that his wife gave a lot of information to that evil regime. This movie is a must-see.

Why something that happened 40 years ago was such a ignominy and was something that should be avoided at any cost became a common behaviour today. The way how companies are trying to make profit on your data shouldn't exist.

That's why privacy matters and why everybody should care about it.

How to get rid of them

Back to our utm rubbish, if you use Firefox, there are a couple of addons that helps you to remove all these trackers before loading the web page. Here are couple of them :

I don't use Safari or Chrome, especially this one made by the devil, but I guess there are probably alternatives to these add-ons.

trackers privacy browsers web stasi NSA utm

Smartphones and privacy

Smartphones … they are everywhere ! Almost everyone has one in his pocket and that's not going to stop. More and more institutions use web and mobile apps. Today, even if your company is not in IT, it probably has a team or a department that wil be in charge of the branding online, your web or mobile app. Everything in our world is interconnected and computers are in charge to help you accomplish a lot with the goal to gain in productivity.

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