Tracking Question?

Discussion in 'privacy technology' started by bazinga, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. bazinga

    bazinga Registered Member

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    Hoping someone can educate me on something that I've noticed lately. My main computer is a Mac laptop. I use a VPN, ABP and Disconnect. I search using duckduckgo. What I'm noticing now is this...I'm starting to see ads while browsing on my iPhone for items that were searched for on my laptop. How is this connection being made?

    Thanks in advance for any advice/help.
     
  2. quietman

    quietman Registered Member

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    Have you logged in to social networking sites , or made online purchases with both devices ?
    That is the first thing I would be looking at .

    Second line of investigation :- they are both made by Apple .
     
  3. bazinga

    bazinga Registered Member

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    The only one I can think of is LinkedIn. I do not use FB or any other sites. If using gmail, I also always log out before I do anything else.

    I'm sure I've made purchases on amazon with both devices. However, the items showing up in ads on iPhone are not items I've purchased, just sites that I have searched.
     
  4. TheWindBringeth

    TheWindBringeth Registered Member

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    I think I'd start with the Mac laptop and try to determine if/how search related activity is making its way into an advertising profile. It sounds like this happens when using your web browser, so the possibilities would include:
    1. Your web browser and its configuration. Which one are you using? Are any phone home features enabled? Are you searching via a browser search plugin? Being logged in somewhere could be a contributing factor, but so too could be just having cookies/storage enabled and/or failing to protect yourself from other forms of browser identification/fingerprinting/tracking that VPN's don't protect against. Are you doing everything you can on those fronts? Are your protective extensions updated and strongly configured? Note: check for "acceptable ads" features and make sure they are disabled.
    2. A web browser extension you've installed. Are any of them phoning home info sufficient to reveal search/browsing activity?
    3. Your OS and/or other local software has some visibility into what you are doing with your web browser and is phoning info home. Do you have cloud syncing and/or backups enabled? Does your OS have an "Advertising ID" and/or advertising system that your browser makes use of? Is your browser integrated with OS and/or third-party antimalware APIs? Are you using any software that is configured to intercept/MITM browser traffic? Since you mentioned VPN: is the VPN client software clean (as well as the VPN service)? Have you done what you can do to check for malware, including keyloggers?
    4. The search engine itself is in some way causing the exposure. Does it happen with other thought-to-be-privacy-friendly search engines such as StartPage?
    5. One or more of the search results you clicked through to and/or related sites (which would also reflect what you searched for) is causing the profiling. Perhaps first-party (hard to defend against and can require avoidance) or third-party (if your defenses are missing something).
    By reviewing things and running some process of elimination tests (clear all cookies/storage/etc then search for something new/unique, search for something new/unique but don't click through to results, observe traffic to determine if there is revealing phone home and/or inadequately controlled web browsing traffic, etc) you may be able to zero in on this problem and/or other things that you would want to address.

    Then move on to the iPhone and try to determine if/how it is associated with the same profile. Where you see the ads in question might shed some light on what is going on. Are these ordinary web ads only seen when using an actual web browser? If so, which browser and do they only appear at certain site(s)? Are they ads that are displayed by the OS and/or other apps? Concepts from 1, 2, and 3 in the above list could apply here as well. Virtually anything the iPhone has/had in common with the Mac laptop could lead to them being associated. Carefully going over things and running some tests may be of benefit here too.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
  5. zmechys

    zmechys Registered Member

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    This morning, I used DuckDuckGo to search for Disconnect Search reviews, and here is what I got from DuckDuckGo :argh: :thumb::
    DuckDuckOnDisconnect.PNG
     
  6. mirimir

    mirimir Registered Member

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    Seriously, you got that with a DDG search? That's a Tor browser message. Are you sure that Disconnect isn't still the search default?
     
  7. zmechys

    zmechys Registered Member

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    I've just searched for a "Tor Browser" with my default search engine, "DuckDuckGo".
    DefaultSearchEngien.PNG
    And here is what I got immediately:
    TorBrowser.PNG

    P.S. By the way, which search engine do you prefer - Disconnect or DuckDuckGo?
     
  8. mirimir

    mirimir Registered Member

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    OK, not a Tor browser thing. It must be a DDG thing.

    And damn, DDG is doing something strange. I selected it in Firefox search box, and then Start Page disappeared from the options.

    I hate DDG, especially now. Disconnect is useless since it stopped using Google. I like Start Page.
     
  9. zmechys

    zmechys Registered Member

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    Thanks for you comment.
    I've just switched to the Start Page search engine.
     
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