They are watching me!
February 27, 2006 8:30 AM   Subscribe

How can web usage monitors measure times spent on the internet?

My company just installed Surf Control. I am, of course, interested in getting to know my enemy. In particular, I see reports showing time spent browsing the internet. How can they possibly know how much TIME I spend? I understand them being able to measure how many pages I request, etc. But can they know how long I looked at a particular page?

Also, any general tips on how to deal with this particular application?

Many thanks!
posted by eas98 to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Time spent is an estimate.
posted by sohcahtoa at 8:32 AM on February 27, 2006

I don't know, seems to me it'd be pretty trivial to implement in JavaScript. All you need is a time function and window.onclose().
posted by ChasFile at 8:40 AM on February 27, 2006

Web accesses are logged along with timestamps. If you want to stymie their tracking efforts, read long articles or books online that only require one or two accesses ("clicks").
posted by cellphone at 8:41 AM on February 27, 2006

I should add by way of explanation that most of these surf-monitoring packages (and even most home-use software firewalls like Zone Alarm) pad the pages you load into your browser with some code to block pop-ups, disable certain javascript functions, etc. Sticking some javascript of their own in there that tracks the time between onload and onclose would be pretty easy.
posted by ChasFile at 8:47 AM on February 27, 2006

Sticking some javascript of their own in there that tracks the time between onload and onclose would be pretty easy.

I doubt it's that- plenty of use cases would involve opening a page and leaving it open until you need to go to another page (e.g. not closing it when you're done). A lot of people tend to surf that way.

More likely, it's making a guess based on sequential requests within a given timespan from a given IP.
posted by mkultra at 9:11 AM on February 27, 2006

Yes. Standard mechanism just takes it as continuous usage if you keep clicking within N minutes of your previous click.
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:26 AM on February 27, 2006

I believe Firefox can be set to pre-load links. Depending on the "time measuring" metric employed, any depending on how ubiquitously this feature is used by your fellow employees, this may or may not be your friend.
posted by orthogonality at 9:40 AM on February 27, 2006

You could also get an offline reader or something like Plucker and download big chunks of your favorite sites onto a USB drive (at home) and browse stuff off the USB drive without actually going on the web, or using it to decrease the amount of time spent online.

There are precious few jobs more interesting than the internets. Offhand, I can't think of many.
posted by mecran01 at 10:52 AM on February 27, 2006

Not entirely unrelated AskMe, where I wrote some brief notes about what can and can't be hidden from network admins.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2006

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