Monday, September 1, 2008

Searching for Sleeze? You're being watched...

I'm not sure if people realize this or not, or if they'd even care if they knew it.

Lets say I'm at my favorite search engine and I'm looking for sites/blogs that have information on the topic of "do something perverted and twisted" (I wont say what the actual search phrase someone used today was, suffice it to say it was someone clearly looking for sleeze online). My perverted and twisted search phrase is what the search engine is going to look for, regardless of the context that exact phrase is used. It might be found on a perverted site, and it might be found on a decent site but used in a completely different (read: clean) context - it doesn't matter. Search engines will list ANY site that has that phrase.

So I enter the search phrase, let the search engine do its thing, and I start clicking away on listed hits. If any of those sites/blogs that I click on have hit counters or other tools like site meter, every person surfing into that site from that search engine list of links, will be listed as such. For example, if someone went to google and typed in "scriptures on being content in all seasons" the google results page that comes up lists my blog as the #3 link. (this could easily change at any time, but at the time of this writing, that's where the link is). If that person then clicked that link, as someone did this morning, this is what shows up in site meter in the "by referrals" category:

site meter data

While this particular search phrase used today by the person in PA was obviously quite innocent, not all search phrases are. The only way I even know that someone surfed into Reflections today by using that search phrase, is because site meter told me. The only way I know that people also use sleezy search phrases and sometimes land here as well (the phrase might be used as an example in a post, or in a completely innocent way, but the searcher doesn't know that, nor does google, it just lists this blog anyway) is because I have site meter installed here. As you can see from this screenshot image, site meter lists quite a bit of info about the folks that visit here, including how they arrived.

I mention this today because I wanted to make the point that there really is no such thing as anonymous web surfing. While there may be hi-tech/geek ways to get around tracking, I'm pretty sure most average web users aren't using those tools, and just assuming they're anonymous. Not only are we not anonymous, but we actually leave footprints in a variety of ways, that this screenshot image is not showing. Not to mention, the image shown here is from the free version of site meter. There are much more in-depth, web traffic tools you can use that reveal far more info about your surfing habits than you ever realized.

Most importantly, we are never anonymous before God. He knows what we're doing online, no matter if no one else does.

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