Email snooping?

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I don't know if this is the right group to ask this question--it seems like
99% of the newsgroups have gone over to 100% spam.  Anyway, I've become
aware that anytime I visit a commercial site, all of a sudden there are ads
all over the place on the web page for products similar to the ones I
browsed.  Yesterday, however, my husband forwarded a hotel reservation
confirmation to me.  He set up the reservations by telephone--it is work
related, I'm going along for the ride--I haven't visited a hotel site in
months, but as soon as I got that email, there were ads showing up on my
browser for Marriott Hotels.  My personal email account is not a web-based
account such as hotmail, gmail, yahoo, etc., it is through our ISP.  Do the
commercial powers-that-be now have the technology (and the gall) to sift
through my private email for more ways to target me with advertisements?

Re: Email snooping?

i noticed the same behaviour for microsoft live mail...

On Sat, 18 Sep 2010 07:57:22 -0700

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Re: Email snooping?

On Sat, 18 Sep 2010 07:57:22 -0700, Annie Woughman wrote:

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Yep, called "Targeting". Cookies and browser history is used to
collect the information and track you. Any website can save your ip address.
No reason the ad sponsor could not pay the web site for you ip address.
Yes, ip can change, but it does not change much, sub-net wise. Add
time zone and browser fingerprint and they can pretty much guess it is
same household.

I read an article about fingerprinting your browser. Tried it
out. Nothing torqued down, something like 1 in 3.5 thousand matches.

Went in and disabled a bunch of features and made it worse. Now the
fingerprint was one in 253 matches.

For those who are interested.
fingerprint browser         in the first box.

European lawmakers are trying a band aid fix for the problem. England
is working on it. /

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Hmm, "forwarded" and "telephone" seem to conflict in my mind somewhat.

If he "sent" you an email he created, then you pretty much have a nice
circumstantial case that Charter is reading your email. If hubby
received a conformation of the reservation and forwarded to you then
there could be any manor of track/tracing widgets in the email.

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Technology would be easy. It's been around for years for the stock
market players for reading news feeds.

As for gall, if lawyers indicate what they are doing is not illegal it
is ok until customers raise a stink.

When you have Micro$oft browser, Micro$oft email reader, Micro$oft
search engine (bing) and get money from ads, you have to wonder at the
potential revenue M$ would have data mining your pc disk search database
and browsing habits.

Put on your lawyer hat, Is it illegal to look through the search
database on your pc for keywords which could be used for targeted ads?

Nope, no law against that.  :-D
We all know you have said it is ok for software to look through your
files to check for malware. :-P

Those keywords found in your disk search database do not personally
identify you. Microsoft has already said they collect hardware/software
information and send to them. The data collected/received does not
personally identify you.  Heheheh, details, details, details.
They did leave out the fact that the packet header has your IP address.

Yes the keywords may have come from your email, but this data
collection snooping software we are discussing did not read your
email. You were the one who told your operating system it was ok to
have the search feature enabled so you could find stuff.

My recommendation, run some other third party browser and email
application like Firefox browser and Thunderbird for email.

Hunt around and disable that Windows automatic search database feature.
I do not run Windows so I cannot tell you how to do it.
If I recall correctly, you use the File Explorer and RIGHT click the
disk drive.

Set the browser to delete cookies upon exit. You also need to tell the
flash player to quit saving cookies and stuff.

Now you are ready to test the theory is reading your email
to serve up ads.

Somehow you have to learn about other key words which "charter" is monitoring.
You would have to get someone else/friend on Charter, have them look
around on charter's web pages. They send you an email describing the
ad's product (not the links) and see if you get ads.  

Now you would have the proof. Write up everything you did and send it
to the TV networks investigative reporters and sit back and watch the fun.

Now you can load Firefox with Addon/Extensions to block ads and whatnot.

I run NoScript with pretty much everything disabled.
You would not want to install those until you are through proving
Charter is reading your email.

Re: Email snooping?

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This is the part that surprised me--he made the reservations by phone, got a
confirmation email on his WORK email which he then forwarded to me.   This
email was sent from his work computer--totally different IP and server,
etc., so it had to be on my receiving end that the "targeting" was done.  I
don't think Charter was the perp doing the snooping--I think it must have
been from the fact that I read the personal email in Microsoft Outlook
(Office 2010 Professional).  When I opened Internet Explorer, I saw the
Marriott ads.  I opened Firefox and there were no Marriott ads.  I get a lot
of targeting because I use a personalized page as one of my main
"tabs" because it has the best TV listings.  Excite is riddled with
snoops--if I buy something from I see ads for similar stuff for
weeks, both in IE and Firefox, but this was a first on the private email
angle.  The shopping/targeting stuff has never bothered me, I am pretty good
at ignoring even the flashing "local housewife makes $77 an hour surfing the
internet" crap but the email thing has alerted me to a higher level of
snooping that I had not expected.  Sheesh, it makes makes me wonder how much
$$ is shelled out to wade though boatloads of crap for the purpose of trying
to entice me to buy something I already bought?  Seems like a major waste of

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Re: Email snooping?

On Sat, 18 Sep 2010 14:39:57 -0700, Annie Woughman wrote:
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Yes, but your ISP had it hands on the email also. You would have to
open the email "source code" to see what is behind what you see on the screen.

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Yes, anytime you open an email, most likely html, all those behind the
scene widgets get to do their dirty work.

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But that is how you worded the question.

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That would rule out the ISP in my mind.

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Based on your firefox experience, I will have to guess Micro$oft apps
are getting a bit too personal with your data amongst themselves.

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I would agree there.

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The data sellers need cents per item. They could care less if you
already bought the product.

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You are paying for the cpu time to look through your files/data not to
mention the waste of your resources (cpu, internet bandwidth) for the ads.

As for the ad server, it is pretty cheep for a database query to fetch
x number of target ads based on what you have seen for the last 30 days.  :(

I helped a few people on Linux to install privoxy to block ad servers.
A few came back indicating the browser seemed to be running much faster.  :)

privoxy also runs on Windows. /
I used rules from for my
starter list of sites to block.

Instructions for telling firefox about privoxy can be found at

Re: Email snooping?

On 18/09/2010 23:52, Bit Twister wrote:
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Was it plain text or did it have links, images etc. in it?

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Outlook & IE use the same rendering engine for web content - you're
basically looking at IE in an outlook skin.

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Hardly. Firefox & IE have different cookie jars. IE's is shared by all
the other MS apps (and lots of 3rd party apps) that display webcontent.
All that's happening is the email being read in Outlook is accessing a
site that sets a tracking cookie which is then available to any other
app that uses IE's cookie jar, including IE.

Re: Email snooping?

On 18/09/2010 15:57, Annie Woughman wrote:
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It might be worth considering Occam's Razor...
which in this case would suggest the one thing people overlook
when they start becoming paranoid [I do, anyway ;) ]

Random chance.

As an alternative, you say you've not been to a hotel site in months.
Maybe their cookies have noticed and are trying to get you back, by
prominent advertising?

Andrew Brydon
Life is just the beta-version of death

Re: Email snooping?

Don't get too exercised about the various conspiracy theories being posted

I would venture to guess that most likely the e-mail message was in HTML, and
contained embedded images which were generic advertisement references.
Like, <img src=" ">.

Then, your web browser fetched those images, and in so doing, transmitted all
of your saved cookies and stuff, thus enabling the web server to
send you a targetted ad.

I recommend against reading e-mail in HTML.  Use a mail reader which just
shows you the text of the message.  Even most HTML e-mail messages still begin
with a plain text copy of the message later rendered in HTML.

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