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Bug Control

What you need to know if you use Web bugs

This story appears in the May 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Web bugs. You can't see them, but they exist on many Web pages across the Net. The nonprofit Privacy Foundation gives this definition: A Web bug is "a graphic on a Web page or in an e-mail message that is designed to monitor who is reading the Web page or e-mail message. A Web bug is often invisible because [it is] typically only 1-by-1 pixel in size, with no color."

For Web site operators, Web bugs represent a subtle way to gather data on visitors, such as the number of page visits, browser usage, effectiveness of mass e-mails and even personal information. Privacy advocates are particularly concerned about the ability of Web bugs to communicate with cookies and potentially link records of online behavior to personal profiles.

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