Supercookies: Yet Another Privacy Concern
For those who are unaware, every time you type something into your browser (such as Google) every word that you type is being tracked and used to create a digital dossier to target “specific” advertisement (things you like) to you. You may also be unaware that most websites that you connect to on-line also install a small program know as a “cookie” that your computer stores to make surfing more convenient and faster. Did you know however, that these same cookies also allow advertisers to collect information about your surfing habits and interests to again target “specific” products and services to you in the hopes of making a sale? In our internet safety book, we show you how to delete these cookies to help you protect your privacy.
With the growth of the internet however, and the ever increasing thirst of vendors to make money, a new breed of cookie has now come to light that experts are calling “supercookies.” The concerning and disturbing thing about a supercookie is that even after it has been deleted, it still has the ability to reconstruct your complete profile history without you knowing it is there doing so. Recently, MSN.com and Hulu.com were found to be using supercookies to track your surfing habits without you knowing that it was happening
So why should these supercookies matter to you and I? Let’s say you are doing your MBA and writing a paper on bankruptcy, which leads you to do some research online and to sites such Wikipedia, creditrepair.com, and a host of other credit repair sites that will drop cookies and even supercookies into your computer. Although you have set up your computer to delete cookies at the end of each browser session, the supercookie remains undetected by you. Your first semester is now ending, its now summer break and you are looking to buy a new car using factory dealer financing. Because of the supercookie, the credit company who is doing a credit check on you now see’s that you have been searching sites that indicate to them that you have bad credit which they deem to be a risk. Remember the supercookie doesn’t show “why” you were searching these sites, just that you were. Instead of offering you 4.3% financing, and given their perceived risks of taking you on as a client, they instead offer you a rate of 6.7%. What you didn’t know was that the credit company has paid for your supercookie profile. Here’s the million dollar question, could this supercookie information also be available to anyone else (like your employer) who wants to pay for the information, that question is still unanswered.
So what can we do about these supercookies? Unfortunately, at this point in time, NOTHING, and that is what is very concerning to me. We need to start beating the drums on digital/online privacy concerns such as these, and let our politicians and privacy Czars know what we need to pass regulations and laws that protect us citizens from these clear privacy violations.
Remember that no matter what you do online, nothing is private and everything you do can become public. Big Brother does exist online in many different covert digital forms; forewarned is forearmed.
Digital Food For Thought