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How to defeat (or at least, mitigate) Little Brother Rapportive (and possible copycats)

In case you still don’t know about it, Rapportive (rapportive dot com, no hard link on purpose) is a browser add-on (I think it exists for Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Mailplane – [TIL] the latter being some Gmail-only mail client, Mac OS guys never cease to amaze me in their dumb-friendliness) that replaces the ads in Gmail with basically the whole social network life of the people you’re writing to/reading from. If you’ve read about all my love for Big Brother Google or my various other mentions of privacy, you can easily guess I’ll tend to consider this as a potential issue: this is clearly an abuse of the “find the user with that e-mail” function. I’ve long ignored it, though, because I’d tend to agree this isn’t such a big deal.

That was until today, when checking my Twitter parameters for some reason I noticed the “Let others find me by my email address” checkbox. I used to let those checked because it was a neat feature in the long-ago internet, where stalking Big Brother wasn’t yet such a problem and where stalking Little Brothers just didn’t exist. But this time, it reminded me of this Rapportive thingy and I thought “hm, so this is how they do it” (yeah, I never took the time to even think about it earlier). Well, at least that’s how I think they do.

So, to avoid be traceable by Rapportive in your social networks and such, all you have to do is to disable the “can find me with my e-mail address” functions. Or another choice, if you happen to have a domain name (seems like most my visitors do ;)), you can just create one e-mail address per service like, twitter@example.com, facebook@example.com, and so on. Or do both. Or register with a trashable e-mail (probably not such a good idea though).

That’s pretty much it. If you went the “I have a domain name, let’s do twitter@example.com” option, you may want to also create a dummy account with your “real” e-mail address in order to confuse the little big brother a little more 😉

Now just to make the job easier, I’ll list where to find the “can find me with my e-mail address” button in the most common sites:

  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/settings/account, then “Let others find me by my email address”
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/settings/?tab=privacy, then “How You Connect”, then “Who can look you up using the email address or phone number you provided?”. Note that you can’t prevent your friends from finding you this way. That seems fair, yet it’s so typically “zuckerbergish”.
  • Linkedin: after searching for like 15 minutes, I didn’t find it. Tested searching for some people with e-mails: could find those I had in my contacts already, but not the others, although I don’t know if they do have a LinkedIn account and use that e-mail for it…
  • Viadeo: didn’t find it either, didn’t test searching other people because that was getting boring. Found a new, neat setting to configure what people can see of your recent activity

NB: about LinkedIn and Viadeo: I ended up installing Rapportive, to be sure, and it seems that LinkedIn IS allowing Rapportive to find you with your e-mail, even though there is no obvious parameter for preventing this. The only fix is thus to use an alternate e-mail for LinkedIn…
I also checked the privacy page of Rapportive, and they just don’t spy on Viadeo (yet): they use only, at the moment “Academia.edu, AngelList, Bitbucket, CrunchBase, Econsultancy, Facebook, Flickr, GitHub, Google Profiles, Gravatar, LinkedIn, Plancast, Posterous, Stack Overflow, Tungle.me, Twitter and Vimeo, as well as thousands of organisations’ public websites”.
Finally, since I installed Rapportive, I also noticed they were still able to find my Twitter profile… Maybe the don’t find me by e-mail setting doesn’t propagate immediately… Anyway, I’ll check later if it still finds me.

[Hm, as I proofread this, I find this isn’t really a good post… Still, there’s always at least a little good within the worst horrors ^^]

Posted in privacy.


One Response

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  1. R says

    Thanks! really helped



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