Wine-Searcher selling info to eBay ???

I was just at eBay [looking for some computer parts] when I noticed that one of the suggested auctions on the side panel was something that I had looked up on Wine-Searcher a couple of days ago.

Bummer - you can’t seem to go anywhere on the internet anymore without being tracked by somebody.

Remember, in any service that is “free” you are NOT the customer, you’re the merchandise.

You’ve always been tracked.


this really takes care of a lot of tracking and advertising: click. it is painless to setup. essentially tracking is looped back to the localhost of your machine. the tracker’s request never makes it back to their db. your machine will have a slight performance hit.

Their privacy policy notes: “We take our site users’ privacy very seriously and never pass details to third parties. All information is held in a secure form on our server.”

In addition to my personal information such as name, address, credit card, etc., I’d like to consider my WineSearcher browsing history as protected private information not to be shared except anonymously or in the aggregate. Perhaps that’s not the case (seems not to be); you might contact them to see how your search showed up on eBay.

Wine-searcher doesn’t have any pixels tracking their searches (only google analytics, scorecard research beacon, and google adsense are pixeled on the site). The “ad” that you saw looks like an internal ebay recommendation engine - I’m guessing you searched/viewed that product within the ebay environment. Another alternative is that you clicked through to a retailer’s site that tracked your activity, but based on the wine I can’t find any retailers with that bottle listed on wine-searcher that use tracking pixels. Hope that helps.

UPDATE: I stand corrected! Tried a few more searches and found another tracking pixel appear on W-S - “Outbrain” is the company likely behind the info sharing. Website here: Outbrain - Recommendation Platform Powered by Native Ads . It doesn’t fire on every search, not sure why that is.

It’s so depressing - there can’t be more than two or three other people in a world of 6 billion who would be curious about the same military surplus computer parts [PANA$0N1C_T0UGHB00K*$] and old Cote de Beaune wines from the same obscure negociant [MAUR1CE_CHAPU1$].

For quite a while now, I kinda knew in the back of my mind that I oughtta set up some HOSTs/DNS mis-direction, and maybe even use an anonymizer service, so I guess maybe it’s getting time to decide whether to fish or cut bait…

Surplus Military computers and French wine? Probably interesting to 1.3B Chinese too. neener

The previous few posts and disturbingly educational.

Well then I guess I need to get an anonymizer service which passes through a Chicom router.

No one’s selling information. Both sites probably use one or more ad networks in common and if an ad network drops a cookie on your computer on WS and then sees that cookie when you’re on eBay the ad network knows you have a interest in wine so… boom. Obviously this can help you see more personalized ads (vs not), but if you want to stop this particular behavior all browsers have a Disable Third Party Cookies setting (called various things). Usually it’s under a privacy or content settings tab. in Chrome it’s under Settings, Content Settings and is called Block third-party cookies and site data

THis extension is also useful for seeing what people are doing. On the other hand, if you thought you had complete privacy on the web you were being amazingly naive.

BTW, CellarTracker uses Google AdSense for guests who are not logged into the site, and I use Quantcast for tracking metrics on all users. If anyone sees any chicanery as a result, please do let me know.

Well they’re not giving away the information for free.

[Or if they are, then they’re fools.]

They’re getting something in return for it.


Sigh. read the post and learn something. You have a tendency to spout off tinfoil hat crap as if it’s reality. I should have known better than to try to help you.

Even Eric’s use of ‘chicanery’ isn’t accurate. All that’s happening is this… advertisers want you to click on their ads. You’re more likely to do that if the ad is relevant to you. They place ads on ad networks who in turn place those ads on publisher sites that are a likely match for the advertiser’s product.

Ad networks place cookies* on your computer to track when you’ve been on sites on which they are showing ads. They do this so that they can build up a profile so they can serve personalized ads.** The more accurate that personalization, the more likely you are to click on an ad which helps them. You click ads… advertiser is happy, pays more for ad networks who can deliver more clicks/1000 pageviews. Publishers get paid. Everyone’s happy - even you if you’d prefer personalized ads vs ads that are not personalized. There’s no tracking of your personal information here.

All of this is because of the third party cookie dropped on your computer. Want to halt this? Don’t allow third party cookies. Just allow first party cookies (those dropped by the actual site you’re on). Voila…

  • These are called third party cookies because the advertiser is a third party in the relationship - you and the site you’re visitin are first parties.

** Note that this assumes a PC is used by the same person all of the time.

Rick, do you work for BlueKai or Targus or something? A very good and clear explanation of how ad networks work! While seeing an ad for something I have searched always seems a bit creepy, I prefer it to something completely irrelevant.


No, but I’ve worked in and around the online marketing and e-commerce industries for a long time.

Really, the advertising relationship that I outlined isn’t that different from traditional advertising, it just adds in the ability to target individually. For example, EPSN has a lot of commercials targeted at middle aged guys… ED drugs, testosterone supplements, sports gear. Those commercials probably aren’t on Lifetime but ones targeted at women are. That’s an attempt to show people ads that are more relevant to them, but it necessarily has to view the audience in aggregate. Women sports fans watching ESPN are substantially missed for example. I imagine that ESPN tries to target by time of day and show too, but again, they have to assume things about people watching NFL Live. Audience panels etc can help refine this… but they can’t target me since they don’t know anything about me.

However, could, if they use an outside ad network, show me more relevant ads if that network has placed cookies on my laptop as I visited other sites who use the network’s ads. Instead of showing me a Pabst advertisement, the ad network could see that I’ve come to a wine site where they placed a cookie on my laptop and that I’m now on a sports site. That lets them perhaps show me an ad for wine vs beer. Now imagine they were a large ad network and had placed several cookies on my laptop from various partner sites. So they know I’m interested in Saabs, wine, the NFL and technology gadgets. Plus coffee gadgets and books. That enables them to more precisely target me and show me ads that I’m more likely to click on.

This approach isn’t perfect at all and CAN be creepy, but there’s nothing to be paranoid about; unlike TV, we have tools that let us take control of some or all of our online experience.

That’s about 20% of it - what you describe is behavioral targeting, which is definitely smarter than the traditional form of index-based targeting (I.e. provides a 40% higher likelihood of reaching men 25-54 than the avg website, so plan ESPN inventory knowing your budget is more 40% more prone to hit your target). The ad networks may have proprietary info like that but most contract/pay third party data companies to essentially read the cookies (axciom, blue kai, targus, epsilon, etc) and be more precise with targeting. This info is essentially limitless depending on what your data targeting budget is.

It looks like JJB uses a retargeting partner which essentially means anyone who goes to their site will be targeted based on an already demonstrated interest in what JJB has to offer. Rule of thumb is a person who has been to an e-commerce site is 6x more likely to purchase something than a person who has not been to the site.

Going back to the original post, this is a precise form of targeting/messaging based on the exact product searched on W-S that seems to have fallen flat. It reminds me of facebook’s first attempt at the “Beacon” solution which revealed what friends bought on partner sites like amazon, blockbuster and more, ruining surprise birthday gifts, spoiling a guy’s proposal to his gf and embarrassing people who watched obscure/pornographic films on blockbuster.


Agreed. I was just trying to give a high level explanation of what’s happening with the overall point being that people can disallow 3rd party cookies and escape much of this.

And this is a labor of love?

A charitable endeavor?

Maybe a 501C3 that you volunteer your time for?

Jesus Christ, you people are pathological liars.