Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Google Privacy The Internet Your Rights Online

On the Web, Children Face Intensive Tracking 107

theodp writes "In the latest installment of their online privacy investigation, the Wall Street Journal reports that children face intensive tracking on the web, finding that popular children's websites install more tracking technologies on personal computers than do the top websites aimed at adults. In an analysis of 50 sites popular with US teens and children, the WSJ found that Google — whose execs recently lectured parents on online child safety — placed the most tracking files overall."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

On the Web, Children Face Intensive Tracking

Comments Filter:
  • Advertising? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:08PM (#33630326)
    Considering what sort of advertisements you see on "children's" TV stations, is this any surprise? Children are targets for marketing firms, since they can whine and nag their parents in ways that the firms cannot.
    • Re:Advertising? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by garcia ( 6573 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:24PM (#33630442)

      It's not a surprise no but this is Slashdot where we understand these sorts of topics. The Wall Street Journal is not geared towards only those that have a clue about these things.

      Now install Ghostery (to begin with) and make sure you are clearing all cookies and cache after every session. Yeah it's annoying but what does my kid need a login for any website for?

      • And thanks to this, shitty artists like lady gaga, britney and justin bieber makes millions.

        • dah, wrong reply button.

          My comment was about parent's.

        • by Fuzzums ( 250400 )

          Artists like who???

          Ok. I've heard of them. I didn't know Bieber was an artist, but I've heard the name somewhere.

          That raises the question. What kind of music DO people here like?

          • What kind of music DO people here like?

            The core of my collection is straight-up classic rock, but I've got plenty of other stuff, albeit in varying quantities.
            Most everything short of super-hardcore punk and metal. (Led Zeppelin, my overall favorite, is towards the heavier end of what I listen to; for some people, it's on the lighter end. :P) Do have a fair amount of punk and metal that's good but not uber-extreme.

          • by ndege ( 12658 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @10:42PM (#33631888)

            ;) Lady Java [youtube.com]

          • That raises the question. What kind of music DO people here like?

            Heavy fucking metal


          • Classical music. Favorites include Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Bach. I do like some of Hanz Zimmer's stuff too.
          • Classic rock + classical + video game music + trance + heavy metal + weird al parodies.
          • by Pax681 ( 1002592 )
            from some tasty sufy stuff like link wray, to velvet underground, to some classic non soft rock to punk,alternative 80's, goth, EBM,Electro,Noize,futurepop,aggrotek but bsically anything i think is good, non chart, mass consumer crapioca
          • I don't know about him, but as for me /pulls up list of most played/ Rammstein, Zombie (both White and Rob), clutch, Korn, W.A.S.P (especially Crimson Idol, WAY underrated IMHO), and if I'm feeling nostalgic some hair metal like Warrant, Crue, Ratt, etc.

            As for TFA, that is why it is important to know what and where your kids go on the web and to lock down and keep your PC clean. I suggest to my customers they use either Winutilities Free [ylcomputing.com] or my favorite Tuneup Utilities [tune-up.com] which automates the chore of cleaning

          • Almost everything, from classical to heavy metal, including lots of jazz, blues, soul, funk, rock, etc. Also African, Brazilian, Cuban, Spanish and Portuguese, both traditional and modern. I'm not a lot into electronic music, with the exception of hip-hop. I also listen to commercial stuff, too.

            I'm not concerned if my kids listen to Lady Gaga or not. But if, when they reach adulthood, they only know that, it's tragic. Critical thinking and an open mind are essential in a proper education. And it's these

        • Bieber's squarely in that category, but the audiences of the other two are somewhat older, although hardly middle-aged. [AFAIK]

        • And thanks to this, shitty artists like Lady Gaga, Britney [Spears] and Justin Bieber make millions.

          You insensitive clod, one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong; Lady Gaga in particular has had better moments (although not all the time). I shall refrain from a YouTube link bombardment.

      • Yeah it's annoying but what does my kid need a login for any website for?

        That goes for adults too - I say with my Slashdot account ....

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        WSJ IS read by people that have a clue.

        The problem is that the people that "have a clue" will be calling up their marketing departments to ask why THEIR company is not collecting this critical information to justify the large cost companies have to pay for web hosting.

    • I for one am socked that people equate advertisement and tracking so readily.

      Tracking is not necessary for advertisements dammit.

      • Not to mention their tracking is totally lame. you'd think they'd notice if only one time of the week or month they look at things completely different and out of character when they're not logged in they'd get the clue that maybe, just maybe, there is more than one user. I love how when friends or family comes over and asks to use one of my computers Amazon will send me weird emails and ads for crap.

        Its like "Hey, you like cheesy horror novels!"(nope,mom) "Ohhh...then you like Square PS2 games!" (nope, you

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Ryanrule ( 1657199 )
      plus a childs brain is not fully developed, and advertisers use psychological tricks to force children to think they need things. i think we need to really look at the restricting the speech of advertising companies.
  • by PerformanceDude ( 1798324 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:11PM (#33630344)
    Most of the children's websites have "premium features" that you can only get to if you buy that virtual fluffy penguin or gold coin. This is just the nag factor at play. I have lost count of the number of times my kids have gone to sites like "Moshi Monster" or "Ella and Max" and found they could only play so far before they need to ask mum or dad for money to go further. If you as a parent can't face the tantrum that goes with the little darlings not being able to play the next level - then your only option is to pay up. Thankfully I can say no, but there are a lot of spoilt brats out there, so there is a market... With market comes cross-promotion opportunities, so tracking enhances the ability to profit. Simple really.
    • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:23PM (#33630440) Homepage Journal

      I don't know if the marketing people have kids, but if they do it would serve them right if they get nice big drum sets and a lifetime supply of sugary candy with double caffeine.

      Honestly, a bunch of adults ganging up to deceive children should be deeply ashamed of themselves and society should heap scorn upon them. They are the stereotypical mustache twirling villain that steals the baby's candy just because they can.

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        I say the same about ALL marketing pukes. seriously, they should be ashamed of how they make a living. they are paid liars, when it comes down to it, plain and simple.

        almost anything else is more honorable than being in sales or marketing.

        such a waste of a human brain.

      • by beakerMeep ( 716990 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:59PM (#33630662)
        In this case I dont think it's that nefarious. I think it's easily many layers of middle managers trying to do a bit better than the last guy tossing on one more layer of tracking until you get a hairball of cookies, HTML5 DBs, Flash LSOs, etc. Most do not seem particularly intrusive alone, but added together the big picture is kinda creepy.

        Still the WSJ article makes it sound like 50 mom and pop web sites using Google Analytics. They don't seem to differentiate that two cookies does not equal twice the tracking. One cookie is all you need to track many metrics.

        The stuff I find really unnerving is the social network mining and analysis. The economist had a great story on it: http://www.economist.com/node/16910031?story_id=16910031 [economist.com]

        Now this isn't just cookies on facebook, but actually recoding how long people talk on the phone to identify them as "influencers".

        Between things like Radian6, Experian/Equifax/TansUnion, and RingLeaderDigital [arstechnica.com], there is some very shady tracking going on. And some of the companies are most definitely trying to tie in personally identifiable information. Certainly, the credit unions are committed to keeping just about every fact they can about you. They mine publicly available court records, work with your credit card companies, and they would love to know your browsing history. Their whole purpose it to create as complete a profile of you as possible. They say they delete the info in 10 years but I think some have been caught being less than diligent.

        Anyways, for SOME of the more reputable* ad companies you can opt-out here: http://www.networkadvertising.org/managing/opt_out.asp [networkadvertising.org].

        *Relative term
        • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @07:17PM (#33630786) Homepage Journal

          There is an element of frog boiling to it, but honestly if the people involved actually respected others as human beings instead of seeing them as marks it would be clearly apparent that they had gone too far.

          We may be in the process of finding out how long a society can hold together when it's based on mutual dis-respect.

          • An excellent point but I think that's been a staple of human beings throughout history. On a brighter note, so have things like sharing and working co-cooperatively. To me there is some solace in the fact that we recognize this as what it is though, and that we are able to here discuss it, and shine the light of day on such activities. Though the pessimist in me wonders how much it can have real impact. Slashdot is excellent at being a real technology influencing discussion site though, IMO.
            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              You are correct that it's not new, but it is becoming more rampant and carries less stigma than in the past. That may just be because we are a much larger and interconnected society than ever before on one side but less face to face than ever before on the other.

              It's not hopeless though. If enough people give it a moment's thought, the blowback as consumers recognize just how disrespectful advertisers are could correct much of the problem (or at least make them pretend to be civil). The difficulty is that t

          • If either political party or the officials and candidtes both palm off on us were honest, competent, gave a Continental about mere citizens and their children, and the fundamental, albeit unenumerated, privacy rights without which a free democratic country canot exist and function, this would have been stopped early on, or, less effectively, right now, and all lsuch collections of data would be seized in dawn raids tomorrow and destroyed. One solution might be for somebody to do a thorough data mining job o
          • There is an element of frog boiling to it, but honestly if the people involved actually respected others as human beings instead of seeing them as marks it would be clearly apparent that they had gone too far.

            If a marketer respected others as human beings he wouldn't be peddling crap to them. Being a succesful salesman requires you to see people as prey.

            We may be in the process of finding out how long a society can hold together when it's based on mutual dis-respect.

            The aristocrats have ever considered th

        • networkadvertising .... I guess they do it by IP? So everytime my ISP assigns me a new one, I'll have to go and check all those boxes again?
          • I just used it and they said they put opt-out cookies. Which is fine as long as the opt-out cookies have a generic ID like 000, and not a GUID.

            I actually just checked too, and in the process cleared all my cookies by accident. So I went to re-opt-out, and it did indeed put a ton of cookies on my drive that look at a cursory checking of about 15 of the ~100 or so, were all generic values and did not contain a GUID. I did not check them all, however.
            • by sjames ( 1099 )

              That suggests one of several things. The GUID could be a needle in the haystack. The numbers all taken together could be an encoded GUID. Or, there could be ~100 independent tracking networks that each have their own cookie that needed disabling. That or the quality of coding by the lowest bidder has hit an all-time low.

      • Actually, well, is this surprising?

        The whole culture of the west at this time expects or even legally demands that a corporation's _only_ goal or morals should be chasing the holy dollar, no matter who gets hurt. You can even be sued by shareholders if you didn't do a deal with the devil that would maximize their earnings. We're at a point where in a poll people even said they would dump toxic chemicals in a river if it meant more bucks for the shareholder.

        So is it any surprise that they end up with a bunch

        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          A bit of a correction, It's not our entire culture, just the noisiest segment, dominated by corporate interests and greed that demands those things and so willingly treats people like marks.

          As a society, we have unfortunately allowed the psychopaths to take charge.

    • "C is for cookie. That's good enough for me."

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye8mB6VsUHw [youtube.com]

      "Oh! Cookie! Cookie! Cookie starts with C."

      all our kids need to know about internet privacy at an early age.

  • by HockeyGuy ( 1864828 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:19PM (#33630408)
    Its foolish to say cookies are harmful they are a technology that is required by many online applications and if the end user wants to they can always turn them off or block specific sites from placing a cookie in your cache.

    They are not the same as malware.

    Cookies are not Malware they can not enter your Operating System and send data to anyone.

    What some people are paranoid about is Opening Google Webmail and then browsing porn sites or other not so nice sites....

    Hey idiots WEB SERVERS HAVE ACCESS LOGS the sites you visit already know every file you touch on their site ...

    Not to mention routers and Squid servers used by your ISP can track all of your actions... and that has nothing to do with cookies.

    WAKE UP!
    • The thing is, tracking cookies allow you to be tracked across all the points of internet connectivity you use (in the case of mobile devices) and even after new IP address leases from your ISP. It's completely persistent, whereas linking me to log entries I generate on a remote web server would be difficult unless you had every IP address and location of connectivity I've ever used.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 )
      It's not just cookies in place to keep track of user state. If you read the article, they did a fairly in-depth investigation, showing that these websites are tracking user-information and selling it to third parties (they confronted one company, who denied it until they presented their evidence). Since this article is talking about children, it's not like that they are worried about porn-sites. Did you read the article at all? If my ISP is tracking my browsing and selling that info to third parties, I'm
      • Believe me parents should be worried about porn sites, as some porn sites market to children. All is well if you don't mind your child visiting porn but some use deceptive practices to make kids click on porn links by putting in same safe cutesy image link and redirecting them to something other than what they think they are getting.

        My uncle got caught out by this recently with one of his grandchildren (10 years old) so I educated him on the use of whitelists and setting up an account for the grandchildr
        • Believe me parents should be worried about porn sites, as some porn sites market to children. All is well if you don't mind your child visiting porn but some use deceptive practices to make kids click on porn links by putting in same safe cutesy image link and redirecting them to something other than what they think they are getting.

          Citation needed. I can't see what the motivation would be to market porn to people too young to appreciate it...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mccrew ( 62494 )

      Hey idiots WEB SERVERS HAVE ACCESS LOGS the sites you visit already know every file you touch on their site ...

      Idiots? Really?

      Did you read the article? Of course a single site can track whatever you do on that single site. Welcome to 1996.

      The issue here is that third parties know what you do on EACH and EVERY site, and even if they claim to collect anonymous data, they are able to create scarily accurate profiles of individual users.

      • by MikeFM ( 12491 )

        Does it matter? They do evil things with the data like making search results more effective, ads less annoying, and helping keep services free and prices low by allowing the people actually providing your web experience to optimize theirvability to make a profit. Do you think everything can keep coming to you at such low costs to you without somebody being able to find a profit somewhere? You're not being tracked unless you're purposely using the web.

        Even if you can pass laws to keep all tracking from being

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nursie ( 632944 )

          My habits, my data, my profile are worth money.

          If you want that data to use for your profile, to sell on, to profit from in whatever form, you ask my permission at the very least. And whilst some paranoia of government is irritating, I find that helping an industry (advertising) that long ago made the transition from just annoying to actually abusive is against my politics.

    • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @11:17PM (#33632022)

      It's not so much the individual sites.

      It's the fact that everyone includes and image or a small from from quantserve, google analytics and/or doubleclick and various advertising tracking services.

      That, I don't like. Fine, keep track of what I do on your site, but don't surreptitiously have my browser tell all sorts of third parties where it's going too.

      I know the ISP can and probably does record everywhere I go. But they are bound to keep the information a secret without explicit permission to share it, IIRC (EU law). Othe sites gaining that information in an underhanded way, information of monetary value that I have not given my permission to have them collect, let alone have them share and sell on, well screw that.

      I now block pretty much any third party analytics, images or scripts as a matter of course. Cookies are whitelist-only.

    • "Its foolish to say cookies are harmful they are a technology that is required by many online applications and if the end user wants to they can always turn them off or block specific sites from placing a cookie in your cache."

      Like most free-market arguments, the validity of this depends on the customer having knowledge of the issue at hand. In this case, the vast majority do not. Particularly so for children.

      Surprised parent was modded insightful.

  • What the? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:22PM (#33630434) Homepage

    This seems to be great for grabbing headlines, but what exactly does Google track that others dont and how does Google know who is a kid and who isnt?

    • Re:What the? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by angiasaa ( 758006 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:38PM (#33630562) Homepage

      Ah, good point there! As far as I can guess, the only way google can "guess" at the childishness of the user is by tracking the sites visited and drawing conclusions from that.

      This, as you suggest, is merely a headline hook. After all, no self-respecting human being ought to be staking their lives on the Wall Street Journal. Goodness knows how much flack they've already taken on other reports, and how much more of it they can and will take. :)

      Back to the point though, any site that gives up a cookie does so for tracking reasons. If most people on the planet use one google service or another, it's highly likely that most machines would be eating a lot of google cookies. Pure common sense there!

      I really don't see the how storing a cookie on a kids computer would be any more (if at all) dangerous than storing cookies on adults computer. :|

      Just sensational media hype this.. Ah, there's my grain of salt! :)

      • You gotta love that they also tossed in "one of the kids sites used to be a porn site!" which is almost wholly irrelevant to the story. It's basically a "bad people are on the internet! someone think of the children!" story, with a dash of "who would have thought Google was involved with bad people?" And very light on any actual understanding of the tech.

        Indeed, TFA was sensationalist tripe.
        • Re:What the? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by metrometro ( 1092237 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @07:40PM (#33630922)

          Actually, it's not. The site K8 is co-owned by xnxx, a porn forum. xnxx links traffic from their porn forum to the K8 kids site. All things considered, I'd rather not send my kids to a site pre-populated with people who spend a lot of time chatting about porn. More to the point of the story, these aren't people who care about education, kids, etc. It's all business. Which is fine, but I think I'll stick to pbs.org, thanks.

          • It's unrelated to cookie tracking was the point. You also seem to have fallen victim to the article's sensationalism. y8.com might be a bad site but WSJ used the weasel words that y8.com "has had ties to a pornography site, xnxx.com, according to Internet registration records." and you added your own conclusion that they were forwarding perverts from xnxx to y8. For all we know it could be they used the same hosting or registrar or had the same domain squatter.

            I wouldn't blame you for sticking to pbs
          • in reality they are probably both owned by the same marketing firm under different names to keep people from freaking out.

            On the other hand, that kind of link would be a good thing, because the firm running the kids pages would be able to track who shouldn't be there.... especially if they start seeing inappropriate content posted on the kids site, they would know who's 12-year olds being punks and who is adults and needs to be shut down.

          • by Velex ( 120469 )

            All things considered, I'd rather not send my kids to a site pre-populated with people who spend a lot of time chatting about porn.


            I'm 27 and all things considered I may never have children, but sometimes I hope. I was wondering why not? I remember that kids on my bus around 4th or 5th grade knew what a pussy was when I did not, and I was ashamed of that. They went on to be much more socially successful than I was, and they probably reproduced, when I did not. If I do have children, could you please outline why I shouldn't? I can see some potential counterarguments, but I'm interested in what a real parent would say.


      • any site that gives up a cookie does so for tracking reasons.

        Not true. Cookies can be used for a lot of things, like remembering settings from one page to the next. Yeah, technically you can say that's "tracking" (need to track users so we can apply the correct settings for them), but that's not really what most people mean when they talk about tracking with cookies.

        • Yup, I call that tracking too. :)

          But you're right.. Most people look at "tracking" as some kind of a sinister big-brother ploy.

    • They know who the kids are because they watch who hangs out at kid sites. And once you leave the kid site and drag that tracking cookie around the web for a while, you can create profiles of the headlines, keywords etc that they gravitate to. Link up with a social network, and you can pin down age, gender, etc. All of this serves to amplify and specialize the pitches that then show up on, say, advertising on the side of school buses. It's a highly weaponized version of a long running battle to fill your kid

      • a) I'm pretty sure Google does not have any processes designed to extract personal information from movements.
        If you do have some information indicating they do then please share, otherwise the hypothetical stuff is irrelevant.

        b) Why do kids have their own computer? If they dont then their tracking cookie is being shared by everyone else in the house.

        • Google's tracking is very good. I have signed on to Slashdot or checked my gmail at work, done some quick news surfing, where I am very careful what I surf and search, and had my "auto guess" results on Google's home page start pulling up stuff I searched for at home, even after doing "logout" from any sites I had to log into.... it was quite freaky as it was stuff that there was "no way" should have been showing up because I don't use that machine for any NSFW activities at all. It had to be Google picking

          • It is impossible for Google to see what sites you log in to. The only inkling Google can get is if you happen to Google for 'slashdot' and click on the result to get to the page.

            If you sign in your Google Account both at work and at home then that is how it transferred your behaviour over.

            And even then, Google has not extracted any personal information from your behaviour, which was my original point. Behaviour yes but not your birth date or anything like that.

            • It is impossible for Google to see what sites you log in to.

              Not at all. If site X includes a Google webbug, then when you visit site X your browser "phones home" to some Google URL, passing all your Google cookies plus whatever information site X passes in the webbug URL.

              E.g., I could put an img tag on my (hypothetical) pr0n site like <img class="invisible" src="http://google.com/evil_script?page=pr0n17&user=you&interests=hot+asian+transsexual+tenticle+bukkake">. When your browser loads that

              • Google Analytics is kept separate from everything else Google does including search. And the Adwords cookie is something completely different.

                They *could* link it all together, but they do not.

  • I always wondered how someone can't "protect" himself/herself could protect others (ie. their children). Companies know that, and exploit it, nothing new out there on the Earth.
  • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @07:15PM (#33630766)

    I thought only one weirdo did that at Google and he was fired last week.

  • Links to porn (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hex0D ( 1890162 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @07:24PM (#33630822)
    Did anyone else find the bit about y8.com having connections to a porn site ridiculous and hysterical? I mean, so what? The magazine rack where I bought my comics as a kid had adult magazines on the top shelf, the local video store had a back room with adult videos, etc. As long as kids aren't being directed to adult content, whats the big deal?
  • Soooo, since when is good a Popular CHILDRENS website. Pretty sure it's a general age website.
  • We have flash cookies and now and the database work.
    On safari I have to have Safari Coookies to clean out the 'cookies' and flash. What hope does some end user with a new computer have? This tracking code is so persistent.
    Without 3rd party code, you are a totally open book to any site you visit.
  • ...the users, not the admins
    Jessi Slaughter [youtube.com]
  • by markzip ( 1313025 ) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @11:35PM (#33632150)

    Perhaps as the WSJ continues its wrong-headed, sensationalistic and, indeed disingenuous* "What Do They Know" series they might just consider telling their frightened readers how to deal with this supposed danger.

    But no, the only reference to browsing tools comes in the rather anemic comments section.

    Note to WSJ: Next time you scream "won't they think of the kids..." please tell your readers to:

    Use Firefox with the following plugins:

    • AdBlock (and encourage people to disable it on sites which they visit often)
    • Flashblock (to prevent flash objects and ads from running unsolicited)
    • NoScript (& selectively enable scripts on your important sites. Temporarily enable just the "main" site for the kiddies game sites)
    • Beef Taco (over 100 opt-out cookies in an instant! Easier and more thorough than going to the NAI site)
    • Better Privacy (to deal with LSOs/flash cookies)
    • CS Lite (simple cookie control)
    • Google Analytics Opt-out Browser addon (http://tools.google.com/dlpage/gaoptout - also available for IE & Chrome)
    • Ref Control (control what is sent as refferer, set to block or forge)
    • Track Me Not (if you are really paranoid, sends not quite random search requests in the background)

    And use a host file with known tracking company addresses nulled

    If my technophobic boss could do all this after one short training session, then WSJ readers can do it too.

    *WSJ uses their own and outside scripting, places cookies and places partner tracking cookies, no? Also, if a reader has access behind the paywall, then the WSJ even knows the reader's credit card details.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Joe U ( 443617 )

      I would like to add in using a ramdisk for temp files (Flash cookies) and on Windows an app like CCleaner, that can be run on login.

      I've made Chrome pretty anonymous using those 2 tools and a batch file.

      I also have my own internal DNS server to bypass my ISP and a VPN to another network that I run, most average users don't have that advantage, but it's possible.

      It's hard to keep privacy.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday September 20, 2010 @12:59AM (#33632640) Homepage

    Snazzyspace only tried three times to put a cookie on my machine. Slashdot tried 33 times up to the point I posted this message.

  • What do tracking cookies have to do with safety? Did they find a bunch of pedophile sites leaving cookies on kids' computers?

    Give us a break!

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker