Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More on tracking cookies

Some of you may remember my post about tracking cookies. Yesterday, USA Today weighed in on the topic here, with an opposing viewpoint, here. Personally, I think the opposing view presents a very weak case, and my opinion of tracking cookies still stands.

By hosting advertising on this site, I am forced to allow third-party cookies in my browser, which is a bit hypocritical. Consequently, I have decided to remove advertising, and turn third-party cookies off. This will stop Google from making me one of the "bad guys" and, more importantly, prevent advertisers from tracking my web browsing behavior (it is, after all, a two-way street). My readers' privacy is important to me - in fact, everyone's privacy and anonymity on the 'net is important. Without it, we're all screwed.

If you look at my earlier post, you will see that I enumerate the number of tracking cookies that were on my machine at the time - 85. I removed all of them, and, a few minutes ago, just ran the same scan (using Spybot). I already have 36 new third-party cookies! (Remember, once they're there, they are often updated - which means the number of times they have refined their ability to track my interests is much higher than 36!)

The USA Today editorial explains why tracking cookies are not a good thing, and why it is important that you protect yourself from this sordid behavior. They also discuss the amazing accuracy and ingenuity of the trackers, and how this could be a "slippery slope" to uglier behavior. It is important to recognize that, even now, it is possible for these companies to identify you personally, which I find very scary. And detestable.

Safe ... ?
My earlier post, linked above, explains how to fix this - I strongly suggest that you take some time to add this level of prophylaxis to your computer. Call it "safe browsing," if you will!

And, for those of a more technical bent, this paper from Harvard is interesting.

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