Supercookies are tracking devices placed on your computer that
track where you have been on-line. Companies can track a pattern
of your site visits.
These supercookies can be removed from your hard drive, but
not without specialized software.
Early yesterday morning, I searched an obscure product: a connector that lets a USB/parallel port cable interface with my ancient Hewlett Packard LaserJet 1100. I bought it. (Note: one site sold it for $12. Amazon sold it for $4 plus shipping. Amazon is amazing.)
I then cleared my history cache. I do this, because with Membergate software, which runs my site, a full memory can trigger the dreaded 2-minute warning more often. I don't know why.
Then I went to Google News. I found an article on the Egyptian rebellion. It appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
I noticed an ad on the right. It was for Tiger Direct. I have bought from the company on occasion. But this caught my eye: the ad was a rotating series of ads for -- get this -- USB/parallel printer cables.
Note to Tiger Direct: the mini-ads scrolled by too fast.
As a marketer, I really do appreciate the narrow band of products. To cut costs of running ads by targeting the exact audience that is shopping for it is a great benefit. I do not pay for eyes that do not notice or care.
As a consumer, I also appreciate it. Why waste my time on ads unrelated to what I am shopping for?
But as a privacy-conscious person, I am astounded at the degree of invasion that this experience indicates exists at Google. It knows what I have been searching for. It remembers. I wonder how long it retains this information? I had already made the purchase.
If Google can identify me this easily to sell a printer cable connector, then what else will it try to sell me? Or you?
Yesterday, I switched to Firefox. I did so because I am having Google search problems with IE8 -- as long as 15 seconds per search, and 15 seconds clicking BACK. This IE8 glitch just began. Firefox is instantaneous.
Yesterday afternoon, I was talking with a techie genius friend. He told me about supercookies. What are supercookies, you ask? They are also called Flash cookies and LSOs (local shared objects). They are cookies on steroids. Here is an extract from Wikipedia. Note: YouTube and just about every other large site use Flash cookies.
Flash Players use a sandbox security model. With the default settings, Adobe Flash Player does not seek the user's permission to store LSO files on the hard disk. LSOs contain cookie-like data stored by individual web sites or domains. Indeed, as with cookies, online banks, merchants or advertisers may use LSOs for tracking purposes.The current version of Flash does not allow 3rd party LSOs to be shared across domains. For example, an LSO from "www.example.com" cannot be read by the domain "www.example2.com".
However, any domain can read the master LSO, which contains a listing of all LSO placing websites visited.
LSOs can be used by web sites to collect information on how people navigate those web sites even if people believe they have restricted the data collection. More than half of the internet's top websites use LSOs to track users and store information about them. There is relatively little public awareness of LSOs, and they can usually not be deleted by the cookie privacy controls in a web browser. This may lead a web user to believe a computer is cleared of tracking objects, when it is not.
A rival product, Privacy+ also will do this. But I am satisfied with BetterPrivacy.
I will post more on this as I use them. If you decide to give these a test drive on your hard drive, report your experiences on my new forum: computer privacy.
courtesy Gary North