Cookie woes, yet again

More and more often, on my phone and on my computer, while looking something up on the internet, I get told that I have to ‘make a choice about cookies’.

For those who don’t know, don’t care, or just can’t remember – a cookie is a teeny tiny text file that is stored on your device by somebody else, so they can watch where you go and build a detailed profile of you and your activities.
This profile is then used for many, many purposes, ranging from targeted advertising to political electioneering.  (Yes, the data collected is used to personally target election promises at you!)

I’ve complained about cookies before, many times, and things have changed a little – there are now laws about them.  It is no longer legal for websites to just put them on your system, they have to have your permission to do so.

Yay!

Yeah… This post is complaining about the way they do that.

A common method is the pop-over.  You arrive at the webpage you want to look at, and just as you start to read, the entire window is darkened, and a new window comes on top of it, asking you to click on ‘accept’ before you continue.

If you simply click, you give them permission to store dozens of cookies on your system – and not just them, you also just agreed that anybody can store a cookie on your system.  Yep, you just agreed that the Nazi party can store the location of the missing gold bullion on your computer, making you an accessory to war crimes… But not to worry, at least you can read about the Cardassians now.

The interesting thing is if when you actually refuse to ‘accept’ the cookies.  You are always given a way to refuse them – although refusing the cookies usually means you are refused entry to the site – so take a look at it sometime.
A common outcome is that you are allowed to choose which cookies to allow.  You have the option of refusing targeted ad cookies, sometimes you can refuse what are known as ‘analytics’ cookies, but always, always, you are told that you cannot refuse ‘required’ cookies.

The last time I looked at what was ‘required’, I was amused to note that the major ad targeting and analytics firms had their cookies listed in the ‘required’ category.  So you think you are refusing to allow them, but you are really giving them permission to do what they want.

And here is the really annoying bit.  There is no way, at all, ever, of not getting any cookies on your system.  If you fill in their pop-up, and tell them that you refuse cookies…

They put a cookie on your system to record the fact that you refuse to give them permission to put a cookie on your system!

If, like me, you have your system set up to reject all third party cookies, then you will be asked every time you visit website ‘x’ you will be asked if they can store cookies on your system.  NO MATTER what answer you give, they will try to store a cookie, find out that they can’t, and complain about how their website will not work as intended.

To which I say ‘good!’  Because the way their website is ‘intended’ to work includes getting as much data about me as it can, and selling it.  Analytics cookies are supposedly there so they can improve the site – by which they mean find out which pages are most popular so they can charge more for the adverts on them.

It’s third party cookies that are the problem, almost universally.  You visit, for instance, your banks website.  If you log in to check your balance, then the website will make use of a cookie to record the fact that you are an ‘authorised’ visitor.  This is good.  But they will also try to put a cookie on your system from Google.  Google is not the owners of the website you are visiting, but are a ‘third party’ to the transaction, with you and your bank being the first two parties.

Once Google have the cookie on your system, then every time you visit any website that utilises Google services this cookie is used to record the visit, in detail.

Once Google have their cookie on your system, everything you do on the internet is recorded!

(Although Google are pretty much the largest, there are many other companies out there doing the same thing – I’m not picking on Google, I’m just using them as they are the most well-known.)

All I want to know is: why is it so hard for us to have the privacy we deserve?
Every time a law is passed to give us this privacy, businessmen find a way around it, and never once stop to think that that is the reason the law was made in the first place!

Rant over.

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Adventure001 vouchers are not worth the paper they’re printed on

For Christmas, my partner gave me what should have been a dream gift: a pleasure flight in a helicopter.

Sadly, it is anything but a dream…

You see, what they actually bought was a voucher, that entitled me to register on a website, enter the voucher code, and then exchange it for the flight.
Only it doesn’t work.

We’ll start with the simple fact that the telephone number they give is not included in any free minutes you may have – you have to pay for the call.  So I didn’t call.  I went onto the website.  Where they insisted I register – giving them all my data which they can then sell.
Not just that, but part of registering is entering the code on your gift voucher – and you have to enter a valid gift code to get in.  Note that, please: the code has to be valid.

OK.  I registered, got into the website, and couldn’t find where I was supposed to enter my code to get the flight.  So I emailed them.  Their reply?  Register on the site, and follow the instructions.
But… that’s exactly what I did do!  And I said that, in my email…

I dig around, and finally spot a bit of small print that says it can take up to a week for a code to verified.  So I wait, checking every day.  Then I go away for a few days, to a wedding, so I don’t check for 4-5 days – and when I do check, I see that there is a new button on the website, something like ‘book your date’, and I think ‘yes!’

Only, when I click on it, I’m told I need to enter a valid code.  And my code is not valid.  But you need a valid code to get in to the website….?

I email them again, and they tell me to phone them.  So I get my partner to phone them…  £3 and ten minutes later, we’re still waiting for an answer!  (We did learn something interesting, though – every few seconds, we got a recorded message saying that all their team members were busy dealing with other customers.  As I commented to my partner, it shows how bad they are, if all their staff are tied up with complaints for ten whole minutes…)

I email them one more time, telling them that I refuse to pay for a phone call, and ask why they are incapable of dealing with problems via email.

I’m still waiting for a reply.  I hear that they are terrible at emailing, which is not a surprise – they can’t charge you for emails, after all.
No, they want you to phone them, and spend hours waiting for an answer

The conclusion I am forced into is a simple one.  Flights for all at  https://www.adventure001.com has been set up for the sole purpose of selling vouchers – which have no value.  The business plan is that you, the customer, finally realise that it is cheaper to buy a helicopter flight with somebody else than it is to spend hours on the phone trying to get the flight you were given.

If you think about it, it IS the perfect scam.  The person trying to book the flight is not the customer – and has NO rights.  The person who has the rights lost them the second they gave the voucher to somebody else.
In the eyes of the law, the contract is between the supplier and the purchaser – you actually have no right to a refund of money you never paid, and those businesses who refund or exchange gifts only do so as a sign of good faith – they are under no legal obligation to do so.

My partner arranged the gift over the phone, and the flight is from a local small airfield – the same one I flew a plane from three years ago.  And I know that I can drive out there any day, and book a pleasure flight in a helicopter, or even book lessons.  No advance payment, just turn up on the day, pay, and wa-hey!
I seem to remember that it was cheaper than the voucher, too.

So please, if you want to give somebody a dream present, make sure you go direct.  It’s cheaper, and you get to see them enjoy it – because you have to go with them to pay for it.

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More adventures on the web

You have probably heard of eBay – the website where you can buy or sell virtually anything.

If you can use it, of course.

I first used eBay around 20 years ago, and both bought and sold items on it.  I created my account, set my password, and happily continued to use the site – without issue – for years.
Until they were hacked.

The hackers got a lot of information: names, addresses, email addresses, maybe even credit card numbers.
What they didn’t get was passwords.

(Passwords are always encrypted.  I’ve run a few websites, and if a user forgot their password, I couldn’t tell them what it was – because even I couldn’t read it!  )

EBay’s response?  Lock user accounts until the user allowed ebay to contact them with a new password.  By text, to a number they didn’t have; by phone, to a number they didn’t have; or by another option I can’t even remember it was so pointless.

I still cannot access that account.

So I created a new one.  Which I haven’t used yet – and probably never will.

You see, within a couple of days of creating the account, eBay told me that there was ‘suspicious activity’, locked the account, and told me to change my password.

I did.  Then I changed it back.  Then they locked the account again.

I tried to contact them.

They do not have an email address!  You can telephone them, I believe, but I’ve read online that you can be on there over an hour.  You can also use a thing called ‘live chat’, or use an online help thing – all you have to do is log on…

Yep.  If you can’t log on, you have to log on to get help logging on.

I did find an online form that is supposed to go customer services, so I asked them why they keep locking my account, and pointed out that if they didn’t want people to use the site, they should close it down.  And if they did want people to use the site, they should allow them to log in!

I wonder if I’ll ever hear back from them…

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Travelodge? No thanks.

Been a while, I know, but… life gets in the way.

Since losing my partner, I’ve been through Hell.  I lost three months totally – no memory of it whatsoever.
But I woke up.  And started a new life – which is what my partner would have wanted.  I started dating, after a long chat with my step-daughter about it.  I now have a job, a new car, and a new partner.

In a couple of days, I travel to Cyprus for a holiday.  When I get home, I’ll be married again – the wedding is in Cyprus, by the sea.  Yay.

Read more…

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A great invention

I’ve thought of a great invention.  Something that we could all really use.

We all, now, have access to the internet in one way or another – even if it’s only by going to the local library – so wouldn’t it be great if there was some sort of global interconnection of all the available information.

I’m talking about some method whereby people like you and I could just type in a short question, and have the answer appear on the screen within minutes.

Read more…

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Annoying

As I’ve mentioned more than once on here, I like to add the email addresses of SPAMmers to every SPAM list I can find.    I consider it to be a public service.

Not the standard stuff – there’s just too much of that.  No, it’s the ‘clever’ ones, that pretend, or claim, not to be SPAM.  The ones that add you to a mailing list just because you exist.

Well, I’ve just got an email that is very annoying, because I can’t add them to the list!

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Annoying

I’m letting off steam about an old chestnut again.  Oh, hello again, too.  Sorry for the large gap between posts, been busy living.  And working.

OK.  For a while now, I’ve fancied the idea of a large, family, holiday.  As you know, I had a holiday on my own last year, before the world ended – and while I was looking for somewhere to have that holiday, I saw so many places to take this holiday that the idea stuck in my head.

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Barking up the wrong tree

I got an email today from a website called bark.com.  Their business is ‘lead generation’, and they want me to use their services…

‘Lead generation’ is basically a service where they charge for a list of potential clients.  In their email, they say that they are different to other services as they ‘check that leads are relevant’.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

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What SPAM is and isn’t

On the menu bar across the top of every page is a link to the ‘Scumbags’ page, which is updated many times a year.

Part of the reason for this page is to highlight how the rules for Direct Marketing are a total waste of time. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) have a ‘code of conduct’ which they claim makes what they do different to SPAM. Their code states that they will not just send emails to any address they can get hold of, but will instead only send marketing materials to those who have ‘expressed an interest.’

Now, they will argue that visiting their website is expressing an interest, or that clicking on an advert is, or having your eyes open when they walk across in front of you – all of those, I admit, can be argued for.

The code also requires any email sent to include an ‘unsubscribe’ link – giving the illusion that we, the recipients, have some say in whether we are on their lists.

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What nonsense

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been caring for my partner for many years – until recently.  For most of those years, I’ve been driving a Motability car.
My partner was cremated yesterday, and the car will be taken away from me next Thursday – so I’ve been sorting out an alternative…

I found the car I wanted, at a price I was happy with.  The garage has put a 12 month MOT on the car, and as soon as I arrange insurance and Road Tax (and paid, of course) I can collect my new toy.

But…

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