Ficton - Accidentally finding out about website viewing by web designer
November 8, 2015 2:48 PM   Subscribe

In my NanoWrimo story, the FMC is a website designer, and she somehow, accidentally finds out that the MMC's girlfriend is visiting dating and sex websites. Is this possible, and how could this happen? Also any hints/tips/gotchas I should be aware of?

The work she does daily for her job doesn't figure in the story too much, but she meets the MMC and he asks her to design a website for his mum, and then they are in contact and that gets done. Later he has to set up a webpage about an issue - not sure what or even if this is realistic (he is a politics and international relations major in his final year) - and she helps him with this. At some point, she somehow finds out his girlfriend has been cheating on him by using sex and dating websites, and this then, again somehow, breaks up the guy from his girlfriend, and they end up together (awww!)

Man, I knew I shouldn't have tried to write rom-com!
posted by marienbad to Writing & Language (24 answers total)
What is FMC/MMC?
posted by desjardins at 2:52 PM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

female/male main character
posted by andrewcooke at 2:55 PM on November 8, 2015

Response by poster: Damn, I thought that was a quick answer. Ah well. Sorry, should have clarified.
posted by marienbad at 2:56 PM on November 8, 2015

Best answer: Yes totally possible. Most people never change the default browser settings which means their browsing history is right there for anyone to see. All you'd have to do is start typing in the start of a url that has already been visited - not necessarily even on purpose, as an "innocent" url could have the same start as a "naughty" url - and it will try to auto-complete to a previously-visited site.

Seriously. Yes. People are this dumb.

If you want it even more plausible, have your FMC check her okcupid profile or something and it's been left logged in as MMC's girlfriend. Again, people are that dumb.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:57 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tinder uses pictures from Facebook, so if she saw pictures of MMC's GF on his Facebook and recognized them on Tinder, that's an easy giveaway.
posted by Candleman at 2:58 PM on November 8, 2015

Wasn't there an issue a few years ago where users of Google Reader had all their private bookmarks made public? Something like that could happen again, and being a web designer and spending a lot of time online she'd be more aware of it than others.
posted by bleep at 3:06 PM on November 8, 2015

If I can't remember a URL, I'll look at the browser history to find it. So she could do that and then see the sites that way.
posted by dawkins_7 at 3:11 PM on November 8, 2015

Best answer: I agree with Athanassiel. And if you did go that route, where FMC designer discovers by using MMC's computer, beginning to type URL, and noticing the the browser's auto-complete going to some dating/adult site, then you could also tie it into the web design by having her request to use MMC's computer (or his girlfriend's computer?) for purposes of bug-testing. FMC uses Mac, and he uses Windows, so she needs to check both while developing the website.

Also, newer browsers retain browse history, bookmarks, and auto-complete across all devices, so even if you visit a site on your desktop, it can show up via url auto-complete on your smartphone/tablet/etc.

However afaik, browsers do not keep you logged into sites (like Facebook, OKCupid) across devices. So while you can be always logged in to FB on one device, you won't be logged in on another device. BUT, Google Chrome (and presumably other broswers) keeps saved passwords in easy to find plain text if you know where to look; so once you see a dating URL in auto-complete, you could then go to the saved passwords and dig up her account/password for that site.
posted by p3t3 at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2015

If she had some reason to physically sit down at the gf's computer and use it as the gf's login, then it's pretty likely actually. Like if gf said here, use mine and then walked away without logging out and setting up a new account. Like Athanassiel said, URLs might autocomplete to embarrassing things. Furthermore, lots of people now store website login information such that passwords will be autofilled and just require a button press to confirm. Sometimes people don't even log out, so the password screens are bypassed completely.

She might be sitting there at gf's computer and have a new email notification popup with embarrassing text. My cell phone text messaging also pops up on my computer screen via the magic of the cloud. She might accidentally open a draft of a racy craigslist post as a text file in the recycle bin looking for something she just deleted by mistake.

Never give someone else physical access to your laptop and login if you have secrets.
posted by ctmf at 3:16 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Character gets internet-security-conscious and decides to delete stored cookies. Looks at list of cookies before deleting. Sees cookie from particular site. Curious, goes to particular site and finds that autocomplete has filled login name field with CharacterB's nickname.
posted by popcassady at 3:17 PM on November 8, 2015

...CharacterA uses their non-secret Netflix password to log in and gains access to CharacterB's account.
posted by popcassady at 3:19 PM on November 8, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, these are all awesome. I had it in my head that FMC was checking some university logs and found out that way but it seemed a bit of a stretch that she would randomly find MMC's gf's logs. These are way cooler and more feasible.

So on to the hints/tips/gotchas then lol! (Also if anyone knows about politics and international relations studies and whether that idea is realistic!)
posted by marienbad at 3:25 PM on November 8, 2015

Even without passwords, catching sight of a suggestive message about past deeds or future plans that included a to: distinctive username might tempt one to go on the site and search for that username.

What if FMC has previously worked on/with suspicious website, and has contacts or even old admin privileges there nobody ever got around to disabling? All it would take is the initial suspicion. (I'm aware that you don't give designers access to production, but hey, it's a story.)
posted by ctmf at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2015

Would it be too confusing to have the FMC and the MMC's girlfriend have the same first name (you could use different nicknames to avoid confusion), so that later on a misdirected message alerts the FMC about the MMC's girlfriend's exploits? It could even be how the FMC learns the MMC has a girlfriend, if after they meet he says "oh, that's my girlfriend's name" and she's all "noooo" on the inside. An alternative to this could be if they could easily be mistaken for each other in some way--same hair color, or whatever.

Or, how about someone asks a third party for the contact of MMC's "partner," and they mean his girlfriend but instead the third party gives out the details of the FMC, his "business partner"?
posted by spelunkingplato at 3:38 PM on November 8, 2015

What if she was working with MMC on setting up/customizing the webpages in-person, using his computer, and noticed he had a picture of him and gf as his background? And later she sees the same picture (with him cropped out) on OkCupid or something? (Or alternately, he sends her screenshots of something going awry with the webpage and she notices the pic as the background.)

I don't think the class project webpage idea is very plausible. A lot of instructors have way less tech skills than the students and it is highly unlikely students would be given an option to design a webpage for a project.

My idea is this: some universities provision webspace to their students; however, it is not always clear how one actually utilizes it. MMC wants to use his free webspace to host his resume and some writing samples, as he is starting to apply for jobs or perhaps graduate school, but has no idea how to do so. (I have seen a number of people do this with their free webspace at my university.)
posted by sevenofspades at 3:45 PM on November 8, 2015

Response by poster: It is generally considered a bad idea to have two characters with the same name (it gets confusing when writing and can be confusing when reading.)
posted by marienbad at 3:45 PM on November 8, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks sevenofspades, that is a great idea, I like it a lot. It would definitely be something the MMC would do as he wants to work in politics upon graduating.
posted by marienbad at 3:47 PM on November 8, 2015

Also, this is going to get a little personal, but my ex-boyfriend cheated on me a lot, and one of the ways was by using dating websites (OKCupid, Craigslist, who knows what else). Once I wised up I used to find personals ads that I was REALLY SURE were him, and I can't remember if I followed through with responding but I used to confront him about it. It's like the heartbreaking and much more likely opposite of the "PiƱa Colada" song.

He also used to go on dates with friends of friends (this happened more than once!) and the friends of friends (whom I didn't know) would mention it to their friends (who would recognize my guy) and then it would get back to me. Not very unlikely at all in a smallish town. Totally something that could happen to your MMC?

Feel free to MeMail me for more ideas! It'd be good if some good could come out of those experiences.
posted by spelunkingplato at 3:52 PM on November 8, 2015

I get that (the same name thing), but I was thinking about something like both of their formal names being [Name] but she goes by her initials or her last name or something. It only comes into play when something addressed to the formal name gets to the wrong girl? Just an idea, it sounds like you have lots!
posted by spelunkingplato at 3:55 PM on November 8, 2015

I had it in my head that FMC was checking some university logs and found out that way but it seemed a bit of a stretch that she would randomly find MMC's gf's logs.

Web traffic logs are also more the realm of network/systems admininstrators than web designers. Web designers typically have access to data/logs about incoming traffic to their own projects/sites, but not about any other web traffic.
posted by p3t3 at 4:08 PM on November 8, 2015

I was curious what answers people would come up with for this. One that I haven't seen mentioned so far is an Ashley Madison-style hacking and data dump of one of the dating sites. FMC takes a look into what's released out of curiosity, finds more immediately relevant information than she expected.
posted by figurant at 5:03 PM on November 8, 2015

The reveal could happen in a non-tech way. FMC is walking and talking with a male friend or colleague, they see MMC and GF. Friend asks who is the girl with !MC, I think k I saw her on OKCupid.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:18 PM on November 8, 2015

Best answer: I don't think the class project webpage idea is very plausible. A lot of instructors have way less tech skills than the students and it is highly unlikely students would be given an option to design a webpage for a project.

On the other hand, it seems totally plausible to me (as someone in academia). Your final project is to communicate about X in your choice of communication modes---or using multiple modes---which could be writing a formal paper, or giving an oral presentation, or producing a website, or a brochure, or...

It would be for the MMC's Capstone course in his major, which also was designated as fulfilling the "Communcations" requirement at the upper-division level for the University's General Education Requirements...see, as an instructor, I would only have to grade the output; I wouldn't have to know how to get it there. Just that "the internets are cool and hip and modern" so webpages must be good, right? And as long as there are multiple modalities for students to choose among, I don't need to be able to actually produce websites myself.

Now, in this scenario, I'm not sure how much help he would be allowed to get on the project, but I'd think (as an instructor) he'd be allowed technical but not content help, probably.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:50 PM on November 8, 2015

Thought about this question when I saw this article: Gwen Learned Gavin Was Cheating On Her With the Nanny Because of an Accidental iCloud Sync.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:46 AM on November 11, 2015

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