One weird trick for sleazy marketing success

Armed with a cheap laptop and a pre-paid debit card, Alex Kaufman figures out what happens when you actually buy something from on one of those “One Weird Trick” ads. [Slate] Read the rest

Don't use Marriot hotels' sleazy Wi-Fi

Brian X. Chen for the New York Times: "The hotel’s Internet service was secretly injecting lines of code into every page he visited, code that could allow it to insert ads into any Web page without the knowledge of the site visitor or the page’s creator. (He did not actually see any such ads.)"

Guest Justin Watt's full report has that air of mounting frustration so many of us now associate with hotel travel. The best parts of Chen's story are where Courtyard Marriot is such an organizational disaster that it can't even figure out what spokesperson is responsible for replying to the Times' inquiries; and where the WiFi provider, RG Nets, "quickly hung up on calls."

Update: Watt has added a statement received from Courtyard Marriot, in which it blames RG Nets and says the script insertion occurred "unbeknownst" to it. However, the hotel chain also claims it is "a common marketing practice with many Internet service providers". Read the rest

Trying to close your AOL account is suspicious activity

A few days ago, AOL fired the staff developing AIM, its long-running instant messaging system. Having done this, it reset user accounts, locking them out of third-party IM clients until they confirmed and updated decade-old personal information. Having done so, I was displeased at such a shameless data mining ploy and tried to cancel AOL/AIM entirely. This is what resulted:

Bear in mind that I was already logged in and could change any account setting I pleased. Who knew that when AOL said it has "no plans" to end service, it was responding to customer demands? Read the rest

Mugshot sites and mugshot removal sites: unholy blackmail symbiosis

Wired's David Kravets has a long look at the sleazy world of online mugshot blackmail. Rob Wiggen, a convicted fraudster, founded when he got out of prison. It scrapes Florida's law enforcement websites and builds a Google-indexable database of mugshots of people who've been arrested, making no distinction between people who are convicted, people whose charges are dropped, people who are acquitted, and even includes children as young as 11. Each is titled with the person's name and captioned like so: "Mug shot for Philip Cabibi booked into the Pinellas County jail." These show up in Google's search-results for the named people.

Companies like and charge hundreds of dollars to get images removed from ( is festooned with lucrative, automatically placed ads for RemoveArrests, thanks to Google's ad-matching algorithm). They claim to use some "proprietary" process to do this, but Kravets speculates that they're just paying $19.90 and using the poorly signposted removal service offered by itself.

It's a nasty story about the downside of government transparency, and Steven Aftergood from the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists worries that it'll be a poster-child for attacking sunshine laws like Florida's open records system.

For $399, RemoveSlander promises to take that fight to, and force Wiggen to remove a mug shot. RemoveSlander’s owner, Tyronne Jacques — the author of How to Fight Google and Win! — said the removal fee pays for his crack legal team to deal with, and to force Google to get the URL removed from Google’s search index.

Read the rest