Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NSA exploitation of user cookies might be bad for Internet business models

The National Security Agency has been using web “cookies” planted by advertisers to track potential targets, especially those for government hacking.  Recently, more information has appeared that the FBI plants malware on target computers and the NSA or other clandestine services do so with targets, mostly overseas.   There is a major “Switch blog” story in the Washington Post on Wednesday December 11, 2013, front page, by Askhan Soltani, Andrea Peterson, and Barton Gellman, link here
There could be a practical effect on companies like Google and Facebook whose revenues and enormous profit generation come from advertisers, and whose business models would seem to be threatened if consumers are even more wary of allowing tracking.
But some of the cookies used don’t contain personal information but do identify a browser and computer or mobile address.
What is the practical effect of all this on ordinary home users and small business owners, or especially bloggers or other artists who publish adventurously on the Web? 

It sounds mixed.  The tracking perhaps does reduce the risk of foreign terrorism and some kinds of domestic crime.  But it might increase the risk, however slight, that an ordinary person could be wrongfully accused of a crime.  The risk is mixed, as it could be mitigated by even more surveillance.  But if it “happens to me” it’s over.    

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