Everything we do online leaves a trace. We know ticking the box that allows Google or Facebook access means these giants can track our activity, but what about the sites we visit? In this post I look at the websites I visit and the cookies they leave behind to see my digital footprint.
First off, I’m going to expose my browsing history (and myself!) in a bar chart. This is quite scary so please don’t be too judgmental.
Most of this is easily understandable, Reddit is one of the most popular websites in the world and designed for many short, quick interactions. There are a few sites I didn’t expect to be so prevalent. Photoaction is a sailing photographers portfolio. It has a few with me. Here I am trimming a sail, it’s the big white one. I’ve obviously spent quite a bit of time admiring myself.
When I plot my visits to some of these sites (normalised by max visists) we see when I’ve been on shopping sprees at amazon, the pain I had renewing my passport and how often I visit stackoverflow and Reddit.
Overlaying my stackoverflow and Reddit use gives some insight into how I spend my free time at home. When I’m working on something, my stackoverflow use increases and I spend less time on Reddit.
We can build on my browsing history by looking at cookies. Cookies are small files left behind by websites on your computer. They store information so a site can remember who you are and what you were up to. It’s cookies that remember the contents of your shopping basket, your page preferences and your login information. It’s also cookies that track your activity across sites to give you tailored adverts.
Below are the sites that have left the most cookie behind on my computer. This list is different from the sites I visist because a cookie can only get added once, so all those quick hits to Reddit don’t result in lots of cookies from Reddit. Cookies also tend to hang around longer than the browsing history. Many of these sites are no longer in my browsing history and some I’ve never visited like Pardot - an offshoot of salesforce that tracks your browsing history to deliver personlised adverts.
Where it goes
I mapped where all the websites I’ve recently visited are hosted. Each dot is weighted by how many cookies a site has and how often I visit it. Darker dots are where I leave a stronger impression.
I live in UK and as you might expect, most of the sites I visit are hosted in American and central Europe. I’ve visited a few sites in China, Brazil and Hong Kong. The Chinese site looks like a Chinese stackoverflow - I must have been in some very dire straights to end up there! My breif visit to Brazil was courtsey of Microsoft Office, a load balancer must have decided it was fastest to get my corporate emails from the South America server. In Finland there’s an advertising company that uses ‘Semantic AI technology’ to give ‘unparalleled understanding of user interests’.
Fortuntely there’s nothing too dodgy in my digital footprint, and if there was, I’m not sure I would show it to you! I’m not sure of the circumstances behind the tracking sites, Pardot and leiki. Perhaps I genuinely visited them, or maybe they have an agreement with some sites I visit to collate my activity. Either way, these sites are part and parcel of browsing the internet.
As always, thank you for reading.