Let’s face it, there are many things you can do and practices you can follow to help avoid identifying yourself during online activities. These include clearing cookies, using a private browser window, as well as using a proxy for both automated collection of big data and simple manual online browsing.
At Ntrepid, we provide an array of tools designed to empower users with the ability to access accurate online information that they would typically not have direct access to. Sometimes though, even the best tools and practices can be undone and become irrelevant by unrealized user activities. Unfortunately, all it really takes is one incident.
Consider the following example. Say, for instance, that you are researching product information and prices online at scale. To get the data you desire, you must query or enter information such as product names and identification numbers. As such, your web harvesting tools or scripts are fine-tuned and perfectly configured. Recently, you even started using Ion by Ntrepid and have been able to decrease job time. You’ve also started to enter your zip code (90210) since shipping costs fluctuate and you want to get a more accurate product price. Once you collect all the information you need, you start the process all over again for another product.
In the above scenario, providing your zip code to determine shipping costs repeatedly serves as a highly recognizable identifier, which may cause the target site to block access (by IPs) to their site. They do this because they’ve identified a large number of queries to their site for the zip code 90210. In addition to this, they’ve noticed that no one has purchased and shipped anything to 90210. While adding an identifier such as your zip code initially improves accuracy, it also creates an identifiable pattern.
The lessons learned from this example are quite clear; it’s important to be aware of any data submitted during the collection process (location, name, specific part number, etc.). Repetition by using the same zip code or being regionally-fixated draws extra attention. The key to success is to mix it up.
For instance, add in regionally illogical requests and occasionally target data that you don’t really need. Taking the extra time helps cover your activities, while throwing off your target in the process.
While securing competitive data is understandably the end goal, never making a purchase from the target site is a huge red flag. Making the occasional purchase shows the target that there is a purpose for your action. Never buying a single item from an e-commerce site has the potential to draw even more attention. There is a competitive intelligence bonus in knowing that targets likely add their paying customers to their product distribution list. The occasional purchase keeps you aware of new products, pricing changes, and general company info. It always helps achieve the end goal when you remain open to tapping into every resource available.