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E-Business Secrets
Brian Livingston
New Web page shows who's tracking you

An Internet security firm has posted a new study ranking Web sites that make the most frequent use of "Web beacons." These hidden little routines, also called "Web bugs," let sites know where you've already been on the Web.

According to Security Space's Web Bug Traffic Count Report, the 10 biggest users, ranked by traffic, are the following:

1., ad agency

2., streaming media network

3., Microsoft affiliates

4., affiliate program

5., streaming media ISP

6., Web stat software

7., Web stat software

8., e-commerce links

9., streaming media network

10., affiliate program

Web beacons are small graphics, usually 1-by-1 pixels and invisible, which are placed on Web pages or in e-mail messages. They aren't a major security problem, but when combined with cookies can be used to collect personal information on individuals' surfing habits.

"The big issue here is that some uses are benign and some are more insidious," says Richard Smith, CTO of the Privacy Foundation, a watchdog group. "The most insidious would be police use."

Tom Reinke, director of technology for Security Space, says companies can configure their firewalls to block behavioral data from flowing to servers that are ranked in his firm's traffic report. Smith says individuals would find it easier to install a selective cookie blocker, such as IDcide's Privacy Companion.

The Web Bug Traffic Count Report is at (Jump to the summary, then click the "Web Bug Traffic Count Report" button at the bottom of that page.)

Privacy Foundation FAQ on Web Bugs is at

IDcide's Privacy Companion Cookie Blocker is at

Livingston's Top 5 News Picks O' The Week

1. Internet shoppers are better in-store buyers, too

2. Majority of e-mail accounts are now outside the United States

3. Which women broke the glass ceiling of high-tech?

4. When you die, who gets your e-mail messages?

5. Dow Jones closes, dismisses all 113 staff

Tip: Improve the readability of your e-mail by 100 percent

I'm surprised at how many people read e-mail every day but still suffer from the world's hardest-to-read font, Courier. I bet you'll enjoy the readability you can get by simply switching your e-mail program to a better fixed-width font, such as FixedSys or Lucida Console. (Suitable fonts may bear different names in Windows and the Mac.)

To select a better fixed-width font in Microsoft Outlook, click Tools, Options, Mail Format, Fonts. To change Outlook Express, click Tools, Options, Read, Fonts. In other programs, check the Help file.

This week's 'You can't do that on the Web!' page

If you weren't present for Seattle's 6.8 earthquake on Feb. 28, now you can actually see the earth move at a Web page designed specifically for that purpose. Just "click here for earthquake," and the page actually jiggles your window. Then scroll down for some hilarious pictures. Designed by MeMail, an ezine publisher, the effect is created using a simple eight-line JavaScript.

See it yourself at

Livingston's E-Business book review

Poorly designed gizmos drive me nuts, and probably you, too. At least Jef Raskin, one of the creators of the Mac, is trying to do something about it in his new book, The Humane Interface: New Direction for Designing Interactive Systems, from Addison-Wesley. Covering everything from clock radios to transit ticketing systems, you'll learn tons from Raskin even if you don't design a thing:

- If you have to think about how to change the time on a clock radio, its designer fell down on the job.

- Why can't there be a button above the hour LCD that increases the hour, and a button below it that decreases it? (And the same with the minutes.)

Chock full of hilarious quotes, Raskin's book is a light amidst the cloudy gimmickry of high tech. More information on the book is at

Enter to win a free "Geek for a day"

I'll choose at random two subscribers to E-Business Secrets and fly, at my own expense, to any city in the United States to spend the day optimizing their Windows PCs.

You must enter by March 31, 2001. Get more people in your office to subscribe (it's free), and you'll increase the chances that I'll be paying a visit to your site.

Because InfoWorld won't give out the e-mail addresses of my subscribers, not even to me, you have to send one blank e-mail to enter.

If you subscribed before March 1, 2001, send it to

If you subscribed on or after March 1, send it to

If you can't remember when you subscribed, choose one address at random. But don't enter both lists, or your entry will automatically be disqualified.

Your e-mail address will be used only to (1) immediately acknowledge your entry and (2) let you know around April 6 whether or not you won. All e-mail addresses will then be deleted permanently and never used again for anything, ever. Fair enough?

By entering, you agree to the contest rules at


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