Archive for March, 2014

I’ve been meaning to mention this, but with my declining use of Facebook I didn’t have an example to show. This happens all kinds of places, but I’ve found Facebook to be one of the worst offenders.

So someone posts a link to something you want to read. Being a little paranoid, you copy the link and paste into your other browser.

But what is all that junk? Some of it is tracking, so Facebook can tell what you clicked. Maybe it’s just the source website and not you personally, but you can’t tell. The rest is character encoding that obscures matters even more.

For some reason this happens to me even more with mobile browsers, where the lack of tools makes it annoying to escape.

First, get rid of the character encoding:

Eric Meyer’s URL Decoder/Encoder

Go to that page, paste your junky url in the text box, and click “Decode.” There you go, actual readable text. It’s a bit of JavaScript that converts the encoded characters back to normal ones.

Next, copy just the part that is the actual url and paste that into your other browser. If you can figure it out, at any rate. This example is pretty simple, it’s everything from “http” to just before the “&”. In http-speak, the & means the stuff after are parameters. Maybe you need them to find the right page, but a lot of times you don’t. But they sure are handy for tracking stuff.

So when you get down to it, the actual thing I wanted to read is at

If I were so inclined, I could write a little script that would strip off all that other stuff. Ideally, it would be something I can host on a trustworthy server and would semi-automatically load the desired page after deciphering the location.

I read an article this week, and thought of it last night when I was at Bed Bath & Beyond, a chain housewares store.

Has Privacy Become a Luxury Good?

It was a last-minute thing and I didn’t happen to have one of the discount coupons that occasionally show up in our home mailbox addressed to “Neighbor.” So I paid full price for something I might otherwise have gotten a discount on.

But at the store there was a sign saying I could send a text message to some number and get a discount coupon on my phone. If I’m not going to give them my mailing address for one, I’m certainly not giving them my mobile number.

So I didn’t get the discount. It might not seem that way at first, but it’s paying for privacy too.

Another way to handle it is like “my” Safeway loyalty card (or the phone number linked to it, anyway.) A friend signed up years ago, and since then several of us have used the same phone number to access the discounts at the store and she gets any associated with card activity. I’ve used that phone number at stores all over the place (including Canada.) Sometimes I give that as my phone number when I have to provide one for a store account (like Fry’s rain checks.)