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  1. #1
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Exclamation Merchant cookie stuffing?
    This morning while testing links for a SaS merchant that I just added about a week ago I noticed that I was getting a large amount of disk activity after their page loaded. When I checked the privacy report for the page I discovered that this merchant had tried to load cookies from over 2 dozen totally unrelated sites.

    I recognize a number of the cookies as affiliate links from CJ and Performics others are from Netwoksolutions.com, apartments.com, 1800contacts.com, verizonwireless.com, discovery.com and the list goes on and on.

    I've left their page open (blocking all cookies) and every few minutes they try to load another half dozen cookies or so. The count is now over 30 cookies.

    My questions are - is this acceptable behavior for a merchant and is this an example of cookie stuffing. And if I am promoting some of the same merchants, are they overwriting cookies of visitors that I send to their site?

    If this is not acceptable, what action should be taken?

  2. #2
    notary sojac Herb ԿԬ's Avatar
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    Exclamation
    my first response is, don't make it public yet. the two most interested parties will be Brian at SAS and Kellie aka Ms. B and I don't know if you have access to their email addys. look at their handles as they appear in the forum here in case you do have access.

    if not, perhaps others have a good email addy for Kellie and hopefully she'll have the time to spot what they are doing.

  3. #3
    ABW Ambassador
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    shareasale [at] shareasale.com

    afp [at] affiliatefairplay.com
    Last edited by Adam Ward; December 27th, 2006 at 10:13 AM.

  4. #4
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Thanks. I thought I would leave it to SaS to make the merchant public if they choose to do so. Unfortunately as a Newbie I have very few options for communications to other members. I figured that the right people would see this post and respond.

  5. #5
    15 years and counting
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    Good suggestions, don't list the merchant before checking with them and keep us posted.
    For Kellie: afp[at]affiliatefairplay.com
    For Brian: brian[at]shareasale.com

    Stuffing cookies is never acceptable. Good job.

  6. #6
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Thanks Adam and Zeus. The e-mails are sent. I'll keep the forum updated.

  7. #7
    Analytics Dude Kevin's Avatar
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    I'm sure SaS will rectify this...
    Kevin Webster
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  8. #8
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    Hi Rematt,

    Responded to your email. You'll need to forward me the Merchant URL for me to say definitively what is happening.

    Email is actually my preferred method of contact. It helps me keep all on going questions, etc in one location so something doesn't fall through the cracks. I can also respond more quickly when I have an answer.

    Just a reminder to folks. Brian is out until Jan 2. Then a couple of days to get caught up also I'm sure. We know that Brian is very good about addressing such concerns, but he'll probably need a bit of breathing time to address the issues due to the holidays and taking a few days off. Which he certainly deserves!

  9. #9
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Thanks Kelly, I've sent you the vendor info via e-mail. If you need it, I also have a couple of screenshots of the privacy report from the merchants site.

  10. #10
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    I've checked, documented and sent the information to Rematt and Brian.

    For now, I'm not going to say much publicly. I want to give Brian the courtsey of seeing the info, checking things himself and responding.

    And welcome back from vacation to reality Brian.

  11. #11
    15 years and counting
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kellie aka Ms. B
    I've checked, documented and sent the information to Rematt and Brian.

    For now, I'm not going to say much publicly. I want to give Brian the courtsey of seeing the info, checking things himself and responding.

    And welcome back from vacation to reality Brian.
    It was fast. Thanks Kellie.
    It's hard for a network to check everything and then things don't stay the same for ever. It's why as affiliates we have to look behind the appearance and dig a little deeper.

  12. #12
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Wow. I knew that this business was tough. I just didn't know how tough it was (this is truly a business fit for Chicago).

    Once again ABW to the rescue. Kellie (aka Mrs B.) I really appreciate you jumping on this so quickly and keeping me in the loop.

    I am now going to open the bottle of Kahlua I got for Christmas. I'll be back when I sober up.

  13. #13
    ABW Ambassador purplebear's Avatar
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    I understand waiting for Brian to return and breathe a while before attending to this so I'm not trying to ask the question in a different way to find out the answer or anything. lol but maybe if I ask a general question somebody might be able to answer without having to say the merchant or anything else they don't want to divulge yet.

    If this site is doing what has been said here in this post.......would ths then be an example of cookie stuffing? I understand the basic idea of what a cookie is but don't really understand I guess how you make a cookie to do what it does. Just trying to determine exactly what cookie stuffing is though. So I'll give a scenario and see if that would be cookie stuffing.

    Say I visited ABW forum (I'm just using it as an example so that people know what I'm talking about) and they placed a cookie on my computer. Actually wouldn't care even if they did that since they're not bad guys anyway. But for my scenario....let's say that they did .....it would be named an ABW forum cookie? Would cookie stuffing then be if they were to somehow be able to put say a Google cookie or any other site's cookie on my computer?? Will still have to learn what happens after that and why it's bad but at least I'll know what cookie stuffing is.

  14. #14
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    Cookie stuffing would be if you visited a web site and they used one of several methods of setting an affiliate cookie for a given merchant(s) on your computer without your knowledge. It appears that a Sharasale merchant is doing this. They know it is wrong and I have no doubt that they will be immediately removed from the network and I hope they will be outed here so the community knows who they are and what they did.
    It is very important that they be exposed as they are simply stealing from the merchants whose cookie they are forcing as well as stealing from their own affiliates.
    There is absolutely no way for them to claim ignorance or error in doing this. They know exactly what they are doing.

  15. #15
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    Peace,

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  16. #16
    Merchant & ABW Ambassador
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    From the looks of the rematt posting, that merchant might be stuffing something and it ain't the turkey
    Doubt that merchants will add other cookies for other merchants without a kickback. Not jumping conclusions but waiting to hear the outcome from Kellie and Brian.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rexanne
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    Rexanne, I just pulled up my chair and I am eating

  17. #17
    ABW Veteran Mr. Sal's Avatar
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    For now, I'm not going to say much publicly. I want to give Brian the courtsey of seeing the info, checking things himself and responding.

    And welcome back from vacation to reality Brian.
    But..........

    If this site is doing what has been said here in this post.......would ths then be an example of cookie stuffing?
    Then........

    There is absolutely no way for them to claim ignorance or error in doing this. They know exactly what they are doing.
    So in the meant time.......

    If they indeed are doing that now, they will have at least another week of stealing traffic from their affiliates, and those affiliates would not know who done it.

    It would not affect me, because my CookieWall always let me know in advance what cookies my merchants are serving but, .............


  18. #18
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    I think what Mr. Sal is suggesting makes sense. What if affiliates are still sending traffic to that site without having a chance to check them out?

    As I recall, whenever a merchant has been suspected of foul play, they've always been named and others could check them out and report back for everyone concerned - even before Brian got a chance to.

    There is nothing wrong with that, imho. If they're guilty they should be publicly exposed for how they're harming so many, and if they're innocent they'll be cleared with no harm done.

    If they're doing a cookie dump, why cover up for them and protect them from scrutiny?

  19. #19
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webworker
    I think what Mr. Sal is suggesting makes sense. What if affiliates are still sending traffic to that site without having a chance to check them out?

    As I recall, whenever a merchant has been suspected of foul play, they've always been named and others could check them out and report back for everyone concerned - even before Brian got a chance to.

    There is nothing wrong with that, imho. If they're guilty they should be publicly exposed for how they're harming so many, and if they're innocent they'll be cleared with no harm done.

    If they're doing a cookie dump, why cover up for them and protect them from scrutiny?
    I agree that everyone should know about this merchant, not just so that everyone can remove their links but also so that they can be sent the HATE that they truly deserve.

    Unfortunately I have promised not to reveal the merchants name until AFP has finished their investigation and Brian has a chance to look in to it.

    I'm sorry that I can't provide any more information at this time and that I've caused such a stir. I would have preffered to send a private e-mail or PM to ask my initial question, but I don't have access to e-mail addresses or PM and wouldn't have known who to send it to anyway.

    I will fully update everyone once everything is concluded and hopefully no one will lose any business in the meantime. Kellie aka Mrs B has informed me that their tactics are so primitive that she doubts that the are very effective.

    The one upside of not revealing the merchant at this time is that if there are other unscrupulous merchants monitoring this forum they may be cleaning up ther acts because for all they know we could be talking about them.

  20. #20
    Affiliate Manager Alan Hamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rexanne
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    Join the Spicy Aprons Affiliate program on ShareASale Visit us on Facebook www.facebook.com/spicyaprons Follow us on Twitter @Spicyaprons

  21. #21
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    The smell of blood in the water.

    If they're doing a cookie dump, why cover up for them and protect them from scrutiny?
    Hmmm.....no such thing is happening.

    until AFP has finished their investigation
    That's what is happening. I don't scratch just the surface, but tend to dig deep to find out exactly what all may be going on beyond what is obviously seen at causal first glance. It's been my experience that often times the iceberg effect is in play. I had reasons to think such was the case in this situation. I had wanted to keep public comment to a minimum because I was still digging, for what possibly lay deeper than what was said here already. But trying to ferret out stuff becomes much more difficult when someone knows you are looking and what you are looking for.

    The fact is...the offender HAS been watching this thread. And they probably still are.

    They know exactly what they are doing.
    Often times, but not always. Over the years I've seen many cases where this turned out to not be the case. There was a possibility of such a case here.

    In this case, the cookie stuffing behavior was originating from code from a third party service on the Merchant's web site. So I spent much of the time I dedicated to this today in digging into that third party service and what connections, if any, they had with the Merchant. And again, I am still investigating.

    Now if there was no connection between the third party and the Merchant, then a public outing of the Merchant (instead of the third party) and the subsequent flaming could indeed cause harm to the Merchant. Doubt and a bad connotations always remain in peoples mind after accusations have been hurled.

    OTOH, if there is a connection then the full extent of what is going on is what should be reported. But only after full investigation and documenation has happened.

    For those who are concerned about lost commissions....the behavior seems to have stopped earlier today.

    Now, I've already said more than I would have liked to publicly. The additional info I want is probably going to take me longer to obtain as it is. But no, there is no cover up going on here. You guys just don't realize how much time goes into some of my research before you do hear me say something either in a public venue or reports on my service.

    The bigger issues as far as affiliate revenue protection are the other Networks and Indy programs that the cookies were being force click through. Any cookie overwrites which were happening were happening through those Networks. So identifying those and having to documentation to give to those parties in an attempt to have the affiliate accounts terminated was the other thing I was looking towards.

    For those who really just can't wait a few days and are concerned about your traffic, ping me via IM and I'll let you know.

    Back to work for me.

  22. #22
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I'm just happy knowing that Kellie is looking into it! If there's anything unethical going on, she'll get to the bottom of it.
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  23. #23
    ABW Ambassador
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey
    I'm just happy knowing that Kellie is looking into it! If there's anything unethical going on, she'll get to the bottom of it.
    Ditto!

    There are always things to be checked out that some of us would never have thought of.

  24. #24
    The Seal of Aproval rematt's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=MichaelColey]I'm just happy knowing that Kellie is looking into it! If there's anything unethical going on, she'll get to the bottom of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by webworker
    Ditto!

    There are always things to be checked out that some of us would never have thought of.
    I've been fortunate that Kellie has kept me in the loop and given me constant uodates on the progress of her investigation. I was not familiar with Affiliate Fair Play until yesterday and I am totally impressed with their methods and investigative techniques.

    Yesterday I was also so pissed off and discouraged that I thought that maybe this wasn't the right direction for me to take. But with the support I've gotten from ABW (thanks for the e-mails guys) and AFP there's no way I'm getting out of this business. I'm just starting to have fun.

    From her messages I've learned a few things about Kellie and AFP that I can share:

    1. Kellie's having Waaay too much fun!
    2. AFP has some kick a** investigative tools and techniques, they mean business.
    2. She wants undisputable proof of who the true offenders are.
    3. She's looking at how they were able to pull this off and how to combat it now and in the future from other merchants
    4. Her intent is not just to "out" the merchant but to find out who they are associated with and bring them down too.
    5. Kellie's having Waaay too much fun!
    6. Kellie doesn't sleep much.
    7. Kellie's having Waaay too much fun!

    My hats off to Kellie and AFP! Kellie if you'll shoot me an address by e-mail a bottle of Kahlua's on the way.

    Next week should bring everyone up to date and we can start rolling out the tar and feathers.

  25. #25
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    One thing Ms.B knows is that the perp is most likely some scumbag affiliate, posing as a merchant, laying at the bottom of this cookie stuffing scheme.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

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