by Penny C
Would you like super-size cookies? I am not talking about that moist and tasty chocolate cookies. I am talking cookies that are installed on users’ computers. Usually cookies can be deleted by the user from the cache but there are supercookies that are not easily detectable by the users (because they are not stored in the usual place where regular cookies are installed) : therefore, hard to delete. The article I read on Wall Street Journal said that researchers at Stanford and UC Berkeley universities found supercookies installed on computers by Microsoft affiliated websites and advertising networks, HULU and other companies that make money on web advertising. These supercookies can not only track your web browsing history, but can re-create your browsing history even after you have deleted your regular cookies from cache. One Microsoft executive claimed Microsoft is “alarmed” by the supercookies and didn’t know why the codes were created (Microsoft created the codes to begin with). HULU, a popular site that offers streaming video of popular TV shows, movies and assortment of other footage, said they immediately “acted” after researchers had contacted them about the supercookies. History tracking is not a breaking story, but companies are finding new ways to track web users’ daily activities to get around the new privacy bills and laws being introduced on Capitol Hill. Industry supposedly self regulates by providing users a way to opt out of the ads being displayed on the monitor. There should be a button to click on the ad to opt out but according to the researcher, only 9% of the ads they examined had the opt out option. The article noted that opting out takes away the ad but does not stop the tracking activity.
In the olden days, if we needed information, we go to a library and search for information. You don’t need a library card to look for info and read in the library, so you don’t even need to give out your information to get information you want. But then, you have to get dressed, and drive to the library during the open hours and most libraries are opened only during the day. What if you have work and school and can’t make it to the library? What an inconvenience, right? The Internet is super convenient with every information a person could possible want/need and more at the finger tips and it’s available 24/7. But the downside of that is the security. Someone is always tracking your every move, activity online, making profit out of your information and you gain nothing from it. Privacy is a rare commodity with the birth of the Internet.
It is not only privacy that is at stake. There is also a matter of bandwidth consumption. Cookies send back tracking info to the party who have installed it and that eats up bandwidth. Interestingly enough, most of the companies that the researchers at Stanford and Berkeley identified said they have stopped using supercookies after being contacted and have gone back to using regular cookies. Have they really, I wonder….
Angwin, Julia. (2011, August 18). Latest in web tracking: stealthy ‘supercookies’ . Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903480904576508382675931492.html