Verisign's 'SiteFinder' finds privacy hullabaloo

Friday, 19 September 2003, 2:07 PM EST

Privacy advocates have joined the chorus of critics of Verisign's "SiteFinder," which on Monday began directing mistyped dot-com and dot-net e-mail and Web addresses to a pay-for-play search site operated by the company.

On Wednesday, Boston-based Internet security and privacy consultant Richard Smith found buried in the SiteFinder page a so-called "Web bug," an invisible image file served up by Overture.com, a Pasadena, Calif.-based advertising company that brands itself as a search engine. The bug delivers a cookie that doesn't expire for five years.

This certainly means the culling of some information, said Smith. "They're getting a sense of what domain names are mistyped, and perhaps this can be used by a domain name sales company. In addition, Overture is a pay for click search engine, with questionable affiliates."

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