I was messing around with Iceweasel (i.e. Firefox but even more free), and I noticed that I had well… a lot of cookies. Most from sites I’d never even heard of.
So I decided to erase all of them. And change my preferences. Iceweasel now asks me before I accept any cookies. So now, I don’t have a million worthless and potentially malicious cookies hanging around.
And now, after a few days of browsing the web without automatic cookie exception, what I have come to realize is… almost every single advertisement you see on the web tries to give you a cookie. I’ve now rejected dozens of cookies these ads have tried to stick me with. My question is, what the hell are these ads doing, giving me cookies? The answer lies here:
Advertising companies use third-party cookies to track a user across multiple sites. In particular, an advertising company can track a user across all pages where it has placed advertising images or web bugs. Knowledge of the pages visited by a user allows the advertisement company to target advertisement to the user’s presumed preferences.
The possibility of building a profile of users has been considered by some a potential privacy threat, even when the tracking is done on a single domain but especially when tracking is done across multiple domains using third-party cookies. For this reason, some countries have legislation about cookies.
I don’t particularly want to be tracked across the internet by giant advertising corporations. I have nothing to hide, but I also have nothing it is their business to see…
But wait, it gets better.
The United States government has set strict rules on setting cookies in 2000 after it was disclosed that the White House drug policy office used cookies to track computer users viewing its online anti-drug advertising to see if they then visited sites about drug making and drug use. In 2002, privacy activist Daniel Brandt found that the CIA had been leaving persistent cookies on computers for ten years. When notified it was violating policy, CIA stated that these cookies were not intentionally set and stopped setting them. On December 25, 2005, Brandt discovered that the National Security Agency had been leaving two persistent cookies on visitors’ computers due to a software upgrade. After being informed, the National Security Agency immediately disabled the cookies.
Great Success, U.S. government.
At least they claim to have stopped.