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Google is watching

Today I logged into my laptop. Generally on the laptop the performance bottleneck is the disk. Because of this I wrote a Sidebar Gadget to track the disk usage percentage. When it’s at %100, I know that if things are slow it’s because the disk is working as hard as it can. Normally the pattern is that right when I log in, the SearchIndexer process takes up the majority of the disk for a little bit and then things calm down. But this time, things calmed down, but then started getting slow again.

With a little bit of guidance from ResourceMonitor I discovered the process consuming a lot of the disk was rundll32.exe. I’ve known for a long time that rundll32.exe is a process that comes with Windows, but I did a Bing search for it to perhaps learn a little bit more. I checked out two or three websites, but didn’t pick up a tip as to why it would be taking up all of the disk bandwidth.

Using other tools which come with Windows I learned that the TaskScheduler was using rundll32.exe to create a SystemRestore checkpoint. No problem, the computer is behaving as expected.

Since the computer was doing normal maintenance I decided to keep the laptop on until it finished. To entertain myself I decided to visit www.gfxartist.com. While there I noticed something suspicious about the website. Normally on gfxartist the banner ads are for art schools and art supplies, but today the banner ad was asking me to click on it to solve problems with rundll32.exe. That’s certainly out of place.

My first suspicion was that Google was tracking my Bing searches. I don’t know how it would do that, so I had to have another thought. My second guess is that the websites I visited while looking up rundll32.exe probably had ads provided by Google. Those websites told Google that was looking for information about rundll32.exe, and then when browsing a different website Google remembered that.

While I do see the advantages to targeted advertising (I virtually never see ads for feminine hygiene products anymore) I certainly didn’t expect that. Specifically because it was my understanding that if I place http://*.googleadservices.com in my Restricted Sites internet zones list, that Google can’t track me. I checked my security settings, and it was there. That means that IE8’s Restricted Sites aren’t working (unlikely), or that Google has moved away from using googleadservices.

So even though I didn’t do my searches through Google, they’re still tracking me.

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