What is InternetSeer?
November 21, 2003 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Someone is watching what you post. Today I received a note from a site called InternetSeer that told me some of my posts on The {Fray} were temporarily unavailable. Too bad I never asked them to keep an eye on things for me. Who are these people are what are they doing?
posted by tommasz (27 comments total)
Dang, that second "are" should be an "and".
posted by tommasz at 10:12 AM on November 21, 2003

Other interesting article: When Does Website Monitoring Go Too Far?

It seems likely that internetseer are the culprits for that, also. Their services are only required by people who have no business creating websites.

And, holy crap, $50 a month for a script to hammer your website hourly? That must be one LUCRATIVE business... Nothing like chicanery to bring in the big bucks!
posted by shepd at 10:17 AM on November 21, 2003

Ha, it's a protection racket.

"Nice website you have there pal. It's be a shame if someone came along and ... smurfed it."

(Yadda yadda yadda bad metaphor yadda yadda yadda)
posted by Veritron at 10:26 AM on November 21, 2003

They scrape sites for email addresses, then blast spam to those people when they can't reach the site, assuming that any email they find on a site is the owner of the site and the owner only.

People used to get email about MetaFilter being down, or not being in "1,200 of the most popular search engines" or other such nonsense until I started hiding email addresses on profiles.
posted by mathowie at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2003

I used to get emails from them alerting me of the same thing. I have a healthy dose of skepticism. For one, their spider seemed to only send messages when an email address appeared on a page. I'd hedge my bets that it merely collected the email addy, then sent the message later...without really monitoring my site(s). Sort of an underhanded marketing ploy, methinks. For as often as I got the emails (probably one a day), I could find a corresponding spider in my log files. It just never seemed to jive. That, and I have a personal principle of never doing buisiness or recomending an organization who uses such blanket methods to market. I don't care if my 5 person a day website goes down for a month. Quit wasting my time, heathen monkeys. Do some research, find out who the true owner is (rather than an email addy that happens to be on a page), make sure it is down and then send a such a notice. All told, it gives me little faith in their service.

It just makes sense to me to have a relationship with a business that has a little more vested interest in vying for a potential customer. It feels like they might carry the same values towards the actual paying customer.

/end screed
posted by pedantic at 10:42 AM on November 21, 2003

OMFG I am so sorry. Fray's my site (if you couldn't tell from the username) and the fact that anyone's been spammed as a result of a post there makes me want to piss fire.

Remember back when the web was young and you could post an email address? Sigh.

Anyway, the newer Fray stories don't post email addresses anymore. It's just the older ones, and the email address part has always been optional. Still, I need to remove the addresses from the old posts. I hate that this happens.
posted by fraying at 11:20 AM on November 21, 2003

Also: Anyone who want to keep these bastards out can add this to their robots.txt file:

User-agent: InternetSeer.com
Disallow: /

I just did for all my sites.
posted by fraying at 11:36 AM on November 21, 2003

Oh fraying, I'm not complaining about your site management. I mean, I posted my (Yahoo!, not my home) email address (and my little story itself) willingly. And I link to my Fray stuff from my personal site, too. I was concerned that they were actually hitting servers (or so it would seem) to see when they were down and reporting that back. The email harvesting is par for the course on the web.
posted by tommasz at 11:37 AM on November 21, 2003

Yeah, I've gotten notices from these guys (and others) claiming not to have reached some undisclosed page on me3dia.com. The messages are pretty thinly veiled spam. I just delete them.
posted by me3dia at 11:48 AM on November 21, 2003

makes me want to piss fire

Had that once. A course of strong anti-biotics ought to clear that up for you.
posted by Fezboy! at 1:02 PM on November 21, 2003

Slightly OT: does anybody know if those javascript tricks to keep spambots from collecting your address actually work?
posted by signal at 1:39 PM on November 21, 2003

signal, here you go:

A simple one:

And a more complicated one:

The first one works by encoding the characters of the e-mail tag into their ascii equivalents. Therefore, it looks fine on the screen (since the browser automatically converts them), however someone browsing the code and looking for href mailto: tags wouldn't see anything.

The second one also uses an encoding scheme, but uses an algorithm to do the encoding and therefore requires a javascript function to decode it back. Therefore, it is more secure than the first one, yet may not work on browsers where javascript is turned off.
posted by tuxster at 2:14 PM on November 21, 2003

Hey, fraying -- I've been a long-time fan of your site. I've been developing a sort of "Fray meets travelogue" site for awhile now, and I love Fray's format.

Anyway, just wanted to add my adulation.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:23 PM on November 21, 2003

Dunno signal, but this is the best way I can think of:

ess h e pea dee at bee e eh em oh en dot see eh
posted by shepd at 2:29 PM on November 21, 2003

I get email from them too. I've been assuming it's from using a Search Engine "submission tool". Never thought I'd be "assuming the position"...
posted by Grand Wahzoo at 2:31 PM on November 21, 2003

so shep... why obscure it like that? Is it because you think it looks cool, or are there bots these days sophisticated enough to decipher more legible graphics files?
posted by crunchland at 3:11 PM on November 21, 2003

You never know crunchland... I figure if it's good enough for paypal, it's probably good enough for my email address. :-)

I'm not actually obscuring it like that on the website currently, because spam hasn't been much of a problem. If it becomes so, I'll be doing that in a heartbeat.
posted by shepd at 3:36 PM on November 21, 2003

One method I had to obscure my email address for a while was to have a link to a PHP script that, when called, did an immediate HTTP redirect to the URL mailto: myaddress@wherever.com. The script could even generate the appropriate redirect on the fly, if you encoded the email address as a GET query.

I figured that spiders scanning the pages could never discover the email address. Even if they "followed" that link they would only get a "blank" page, as my email address would only appear in the HTTP headers (which I assumed most spiders would ignore, or would not be able to interpret). Real browsers, however, would "redirect" to the mail client when the link was clicked. I stopped doing it because it didn't work perfectly in Opera at the time, but can anyone else confirm if this was a decent way of foiling spammers? I guess like all techniques, including the ones tuxter describes above, are really quite simple and I have no doubt spammers have adapted their spiders to convert URL-encoded strings back into ASCII.
posted by Jimbob at 7:22 PM on November 21, 2003

If I were souless and was on the spammer side of the foodchain, I'd certainly see things like that email-addy-as-an-image and the javascript stuff challenges. Poor challenges, which would be conquered quickly, and followed up with a congratulatory guinness.

What I'm saying is, if you dislike spam enough to go through the trouble to obfuscate your email address, you better make sure its done by hand. On slashdot, I use "my first name dash slashdot at whatever", and then in my profile I provide my first name. People can still email me, but bots won't figure that out till we have AI good enough to make spam a thing of the past anyways.
posted by duckstab at 8:41 PM on November 21, 2003

I hope a lot of people are watching what I post.
posted by troutfishing at 8:47 PM on November 21, 2003

I hope that didn't come off as a veiled admission of working in the spam industry. It wasn't. I work in education, fwiw.
posted by duckstab at 9:30 PM on November 21, 2003

Also: Anyone who want to keep these bastards out can add this to their robots.txt file:

User-agent: InternetSeer.com
Disallow: /

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:15 PM on November 21, 2003

Seriously, anyone who's received an email from these folks that referenced fray.com, please forward it to me at dmp at the dotcom I just mentioned. I just might have a lawyer who's interested in seeing 'em.
posted by fraying at 11:52 PM on November 21, 2003

It doesn't take much to decipher text in an easily legible image. I managed to hack up a small VB program that could figure out image text with about 95 percent accuracy back when the big sites didn't use the crazy distorted text. (It was part of a series of little programs I wrote for someone who has trouble reading things like that) I'm sure it was as inefficient as hell, because it was one of my first real tries at programming anything more than PHP or javascript, but it was pretty easy. I think it took an hour an a half. A real programmer could probably have made it 100% accurate with no trouble.
posted by Nothing at 1:22 AM on November 22, 2003

Hahaha! You still post to the Fray? What's the matter? Did you run out of tacks to stick in your shoes?
posted by HTuttle at 3:48 AM on November 22, 2003

OH. different Fray, nevermind. Next time I'll look at the link first. (But why start now!)
posted by HTuttle at 3:50 AM on November 22, 2003

I've been getting these for a good while, but people who've posted comments to my site suddenly started receiving near-daily email from InternetSeer a month ago.

So I emailed InternetSeer asking them to stop immediately. They got back to me within the hour, apologised (albeit curtly) and AFAIK no one has received spam from them since.

Not that I mean to defend them, but you might try emailing a complaint
posted by jack_mo at 7:40 AM on November 22, 2003

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