Start Panic is a free online service designed to highlight privacy issues in browsers by detecting sites visited in the past.
Internet privacy (also know as online privacy or web privacy) has become a hot topic in the past couple of years as privacy invasive marketing techniques and information-stealing malware has been on the rise.
Some users install security and privacy software on their system, for instance in the form of desktop applications or browser add-ons, to protect the system against possible data leaks and other privacy related issues that may occur.
Start Panic tries to raise public awareness for Internet privacy issues on the service's website. The makers have implemented a script on the site that attempts to find out sites that the user visited in previous browsing sessions.
Two aspects make this interesting. The first is that it is a cross-browser solution.
It works in all major web browsers including Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Google Chrome and Safari. The second aspect is that it will display results even if the user clears the web browser's history, cookies and cache regularly.
The reason here is that the browsing history gets recorded while the Internet browser is being used. While it may have been cleared recently, the most recent entries are still all accessible unless the history has been cleared right before the Start Panic website has been opened.
You can start the process by clicking on the lets start button there. It can take a minute or two before the results are displayed. The list should contain the list of websites that have been visited in this browsing session. It might contain more websites if the user is not deleting the history regularly.
The service seems to use style information to determine whether websites have been visited or not. The browser records those and will paint them different than links that have not been visited. It is very likely that only top sites are checked.
Update: Note that most browsers appear to have plugged the privacy issue, so that it is no longer possible to determine which sites have been visited using the site or script.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.