Can my new boyfriend tell I visit his website?
March 16, 2017 7:49 PM   Subscribe

The guy I recently started dating has become aware of my ip address. Using google analytics or some other tool, can he tell how often I visit his website? More importantly, can he tell what search terms I've used to get to his website? I look at his website an embarrassing amount and have used some embarrassing search terms to get there. Can he tell it was me? What else can he tell based on this info?
posted by sunrisecoffee to Technology (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
[C]an he tell how often I visit his website?
If your ISP gives you a static IP address, yes.

[C]an he tell what search terms I've used to get to his website?
If you used Google to search, not since 2012-ish.
posted by lozierj at 7:57 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Yes, most probably he can tell. At the very least he can tell your IP and general location. If I remember correctly, Google Analytics basically logs these two things all the time, and some other statistical info like page popularity, etc. But most websites (not all) have statistical scripts that run in the background that are a bit more advanced than Google analytics. If he has something like this, he can also usually tell what search terms people use to find his website, also. Yes, Google strips out keyword search information for logged in users, so you're safe if you used that, but other search engines don't. This is generally done to see what search terms work for the site, etc.

But he can still tell where you came from, what dates, how many times, which pages you frequent the most, what page resolution, browser, and sometimes even what OS you're using. Also, how long you spend on specific pages on his site. Chances are, he may have already known it was you, even without knowing your IP. If he gets a LOT of hits, he might not specifically check the logs thoroughly. Even with browser extensions like Noscript, a lot of info is still logged. You can usually tell if he has something like this running if you check the page source and see a javascript script in the background, usually under a small script tag. (Noscript works for identifying stuff like this too, as any script running shows up in the 'forbid' list)

For example: I have had analytics on my site for a long time and I knew immediately my ex was suddenly visiting my site because he's from a specific small town, and I don't advertise my site much-- and sure enough, he hit my site a ton and contacted me a week later and basically confirmed this. I also noticed when I got another hit from an ex from his home-town, but I wasn't sure if it was him or his girlfriend (who was online looking for me) looking me up. And when my current fiance checked out my site (I knew he was doing this as we talked about it at the time) it logged it, and if I go look, I still have his address in the logs. Even if you don't have a static IP (he doesn't) his geolocation didn't change, so I knew it was him.

Hope that helps.
posted by Dimes at 8:22 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]

I use StatCounter on my personal blog, and not only does it give me the information you indicated, but a host of other ways to view Web traffic specifics. If your boyfriend has even the most basic familiarity with web analytics, he may well know how to access all/part of the details in your Ask. Just his awareness of your IP address (especially if static, as lozierj mentioned), could make it possible for him to discern the frequency of your visits, at the very least.

The main factor in all this, is how much he cares about your viewing of his website - presuming he is aware you view it at all.
posted by Amor Bellator at 8:32 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]

Seconding the StatCounter comment and Dimes's story about discovering someone in particular was visiting.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:35 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

If his site is using Flash cookies, it may also be possible for him—if you have not taken steps to disable Flash cookies on your computer (they are browser-independent, so clearing browser cookies does not remove them!)—to see not only which embarrassing search terms you used to get there, but which embarrassing websites you have visited in your web-browsing over the last months or years apart from his (since sites which use Flash cookies can share this sort of information with each other).
posted by tenderly at 2:09 AM on March 17

Aw geez, this is embarrassing but I used Google Analytics to tell if an ex was visiting my blog back in the day. I didn't know his IP but I did know unique things about his computer set up + general location that were easy to pick out in the low traffic. So I could tell when he was visiting, what pages he was seeing, knew he was still doing it even after I requested he stop (how unbalanced he must have found me, making that request but not telling him how I knew he was viewing!). He wasn't bad/threatening, I was just still upset from the break up. Torn between unhealthy validation (he's still interested in me even though we should never ever date again!) and acute mortification (he broke up with me because I wasn't good at our relationship, what further judgements must I endure!), the nervousness of how he might interpret anything I wrote no matter how innocuous warring against the attention seeking temptation of writing about him where he would see it made me mostly stop posting anything until he stopped visiting altogether.

It sounds like you might want to know what tracking he might be using--perhaps Ghostery would help you with that? Also, when you say his website, is it something he actually has a lot of control over, or is it on a third party platform? Many third party platforms don't give you analytics abilities, at least not unless you pony up. If it's installed on a server he owns, keep in mind that knowing an IP address, he could grep server logs or something and still get a ton of info, but it's not as common since Google Analytics is so easy and UI friendly and most people like hosting their stuff with third parties more than managing their own hosting.
posted by foxfirefey at 4:30 AM on March 17

Technically speaking yes, he can know that just by thinking about what Google Analytics tells him. The real point is that it doesn't volunteer the information, he has to ask. "Has sunrisecoffee been visiting my page from their home computer with IP address X?" "Show me a list of search terms used to find my webpage." Then he has to infer... "hmm... nobody searched for 'hottest male teapot blogger' until I started dating sunrisecoffee, maybe that was them!" or maybe the phrase he'll pick out of his search terms list will be 'teapot blogger relationship problems'. It's all stuff going on in his head, nothing to do with 100% knowledge, so he can infer all he wants, your search terms may not be the most so-called-embarassing searches that led people to his page this month! It will be 100% in his head whether he chooses to connect you with anything he sees, so you just have to trust that he's not a judgey person. Or if he is a totally judgey person, know that you could have never searched using anything other than his name, and he could still choose to correlate you with some nutjob's searches.
posted by aimedwander at 6:44 AM on March 17

I believe you can mask your IP address using a VPN. You can download third-party ones, and a free one is built into the Opera browser. I don't know too much about VPNs (maybe someone else can chime in), but maybe you'd want to look into using one.
posted by Leontine at 1:05 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]

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