Anonymization Through URL Shortening (Or Not)

For some strange reason I was thinking about URL shortening this morning, and how a nice side effect of it is anonymization. When I click a shortened URL the browser is first sent to the shortening service (for example TinyURL), which then redirects it to the actual destination. So in theory, the referrer would be the originating page URL on the first request and the shortening service URL on the second. Right?

As it turns out that’s not the case. I tried this with DwarfURL, EasyURL, Fhurl, Memurl, Redirx, SnipURL and TinyURL and in all cases the referrer at the final destination was the originating page. I haven’t researched it further, but I would imagine it’s because browsers (at least Firefox) don’t treat a redirect as a referral.

So long story short, you can’t count on URL shortening for anonymization.