• Digital Detangler

You Won't Believe This C-SPAN Clip

First off, I apologize for the clickbait title this week. I just couldn't resist the challenge of creating C-SPAN-based clickbait.

Before we get to that mouthwatering C-SPAN clip, I need to give a little context. When the internet first came out, we had what is today referred to as Web 1.0. Basically, you went to an ugly (which historians contend "looked cool at the time") web site and looked at information. Then came Web 2.0, which introduced more interactivity and began using cookies to store user information. Anything you log into (Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Prezi, DropBox, etc) is a product of Web 2.0. The transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 also heralded a massive consolidation in internet traffic, which happened right as smartphones, big data, and the enigmatic 'cloud' came out, so pretty much no one noticed that it happened. But if you were watching C-SPAN, it finally paid off. For the rest of you:


When Dr. Labovitz refers to few content providers serving more than half of internet traffic during peak hours, you probably don't have to be a genius to know who he's referring to: Google, Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, YouTube, Amazon, and more.Once the internet consolidated and use of interactivity (javascript) shot up, so did tracking. To give you a sense of what is possible to track online, check out clickclickclick.click.

That level of detail is now routinely collected by the big players. Even the internet's long tail (this refers to the millions of sites that get very few visits) uses Google Analytics to track page visits. Today, 75% of the top million web pages uses Google Analytics, which means Google has the most complete picture of your movements around the web(1). Lots of other companies are tracking you as well, mostly through the social widgets you see imploring you to share whatever you are doing online.

Traditionally, tracking happened via cookies (small, unique bits of text stored locally on your device), so if you weren't pleased with the tracking, you could clear your cookies. Lately, a new cookie-less strategy has taken hold. "Browser fingerprinting" allows companies to track you even when you remove cookies or use "Incognito Mode." For a demonstration of "browser fingerprinting," head over to nothingprivate.ml.

This is all just in your traditional browser. If you are annoyed by all this tracking, you can install a Chrome Extension called Privacy Badger, created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It attempts to automatically detect and thwart tracking. Warning: sometimes it breaks the page you are visiting. You can then turn it off or adjust it to ignore the page you are having trouble with.


  1. How to Live Without Google. (2017). DuckDuckGo Blog. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from https://spreadprivacy.com/how-to-remove-google/

  2. Merger, C., & House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, C. (2014). Comcast Time Warner Cable Merger, May 8 2014 | Video | C-SPAN.org. C-SPAN.org. Retrieved 20 February 2018, from https://www.c-span.org/video/?319101-1/comcast-time-warner-cable-merger