Tuesday, November 04, 2014

"Supercookies" used by Verizon and ATT seem to end-around "do not track" options

“Supercookies” used by Verizon and AT&T on over 100 million customers, are very difficult to disable, according to a major story by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post Tuesday, November 4, 2014, in “Economy & Business” on p. A11, link here. The hosting companies are said to be selling advertising based on the information in these supercookies, and that would violate both voluntary “do not track” settings in newer browsers as well as newer regulations. They might expose users in authoritarian countries to more risk.  I don’t know whether use of TOR would defeat the practice.  I’ve seen some libertarian columnists suggest that Internet uses have a moral duty to learn to use TOR (rather like having a duty to learn to defend oneself with weapons). 

The article discusses an insidious practice of “de-anonymizing” a user. 
I have generally noticed that ads that I see on the web are very specific as to my previous searches and activities, especially with respect to travel.  I often see ads for hotels in NYC where I have stayed, or airlines I have used.  I don’t see movie ads much, but I do see stage play ads from NYC.  Ads that I see have more confluence than surfing I have done or purchases I have made in the past than they do with the subject matter of my blogs, books, and websites, although sometimes the latter also manages (like seeing ads for “older gay men” or sometimes dating services). Again, companies need to make money from ads to offer "free" services.  

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