De-Anonymization - fancy word that. It means finding who you are in real life. Tracking your "anonymous" status, uncovering all your email alias addresses and your various user ids or login names. Oh... and this isn't done by the NSA (well they do it too), but by nearly every business on the internet.
It's part of nearly every (non)Privacy Statement and LOTRO/Warner websites aren't unique in this activity and it's one of a long long list of exceptions in the privacy statements (that no one actually reads or understands).
One method is to embed tracking codes into email messages sent to you and inside the message are hidden tracers that will put a "tag number" on you. There's a corresponding tag number for the company using the service and with a bit of not-to-difficult data mining, Bob's Your Uncle.
It's one of those areas that remains hidden because most folks have their email messages set to HTML format. Within HTML formatted messages all sorts of interesting things can be embedded. It's sort of like getting the meta-data with a turbo-charger attached.
Here's a sample from a recent LOTRO email about October 2014 events. All the URLs are fractured to prevent auto-run. I don't recommend you click on them or your will be tagged as me. Notice how subtly they ask you to enable the images that will embed more tracking...
And you might notice that none of these links are LOTRO links ... exct.net is a company that specializes in targeted email tracking. That BIG LONG NUMBER is YOU (well me actually) which is why you wouldn't want to click it unless you want to become attached to my tracking profile.
Email not showing up correctly? Enable images! If that doesn't work, view online here
To view an online version of this message in English, click here.
· Klicken Sie hier, um die E-Mail in einem Webbrowser anzuzeigen.
· Cliquez ici pour lire ce message dans un navigateur Web.
(sample end but it goes on and on and on in the message)
The interesting sub-section of this is, that LOTRO gets to find more about you but exct.net gets to keep the data too and exct.net will reuse this information about you and your connection to LOTRO. Have you wondered why you get emails for other games? Well exct.net-like companies are very well aware of which games you like an for a small fee, other game companies using exct.net-type services, will get you on their mailing lists too. That's even if Warner has a "do not share" agreement with exct.net. Because why? Why they never read their (non)privacy statements either.
You can view your own version and reduce the number of these items that auto-activate by switching your email to TEXT mode and stop using HTML mode. Thunderbird email software has this ability as do most others but some will hide this setting. Because why? Why, it makes it harder for you to be tracked once you see a Sea Wall Of Tracking Code appear in a simple email message.
If you want to see the now infamous MetaData attached to your email, look for a setting that will show you the email message source. It's soooo informative no wonder its the most popular item to harvest, it's open text, it's not encrypted and not encryptable under the current state of the internet. And just to make it a bit more exciting, there are governments that want to enact laws to prohibit any encryption of any part of the message including the message body.
Here's an example of what you might see in the message source, a web beacon:
Now some of these items might be OK but in the world of the bad guys who are interested in such things, any of these lines can be intercepted and hacked to alter the URLs. Then the bogus message which looks exactly like the legitimate message, will redirect you to another site that may look like a duck and walk like a duck but is not a duck.
<!-- HD RETARGETING PIXEL -->
<img width="1" height="1" style="border:0" src="HT TP://bs.serving-sys.com/BurstingPipe/ActivityServer.bs?cn=as&ActivityID=349503&ns=1"/>
<!-- END HD RETARGETING PIXEL -->
I get loads of emails from FedEx for packages that have never been sent to me and if I would just "click here" and enter a few details (OH? Really??!) they will get that never-ordered package to me PDQ.
It gives retargeting an enhanced meaning.
(urls fractured to prevent auto-run)