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9.17.2004

Evite is insidious 

Here's why:



Another practice, which involves using e-mail as a kind of Trojan horse to deliver a cookie file, recently prompted the Michigan attorney general's office to warn that it would sue one Web site, Evite, under the state's Consumer Protection Act unless it began to inform consumers.

Party organizers use Evite, a San Francisco-based online invitation service, to send e-mail HTML invitations. In addition to collecting the official R.S.V.P.'s, Evite is able to tell the organizer who opened the mail without responding, and who did not open it. Those who open the invitation receive a cookie from Evite, which would not otherwise be possible unless they visited its Web site.

Privacy advocates speculate that the company could "rent"the cookie and the e-mail address it is associated with to other sites.

Evite's chief executive, Josh Silverman, declined to be interviewed, citing continuing negotiations with the Michigan attorney general. He said in a statement that the cookies Evite delivered were not linked to addresses.

But Nick Ragouzis, a technically savvy business consultant in San Francisco who discovered Evite's invisible pixel in an invitation he received recently, said that alone was enough to make him feel his privacy had been invaded.

"I don't really care that they know I opened this particular message," Mr. Ragouzis said. "But they never asked me. And there would be other messages that I would care about. I feel I should be asked."

Mr. Ragouzis said he told the host of the party, Jad Duwaik, to refrain from sending him future Evite invitations and asked that he stop using the company's services altogether. But Mr. Duwaik, who organizes networking events for entrepreneurs, said the information provided by Evite about how many of the invitees open the messge helped him gauge interest in his parties.

"It's something I feel uncomfortable with as a consumer," Mr. Duwaik said. "But as an organizer it's just too useful to give up."


I think Evite matches email addresses with IP addresses, too: I scrubbed the cookies from my machine, viewed an Evite, and it still recognized me.

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