NY Times Story on HTML5 and Supercookies

Unfortunately, the next iteration of HTML code, HTML5, won’t include the most awesome peanut butter and white chocolate infused snickerdoodles. The New York Times ran an article today on the possibility of new online tracking being developed that hides multiple cookies on a user’s computer in order to thwart those tracking cookies’ discovery. You can read about the Evercookie and other supercookies here. Things do get worse though. Bruce Schneier reported awhile back on tracking without cookies here. Similar concerns were raised on CNET about browser fingerprinting here.

I have no overwhelming problem with websites that I visit making money in some way on my browsing. The services that I enjoy have to be paid for somehow. This is something that some folks forget. However, I do have problems with companies being irresponsible or exploitative. Irresponsibility may include data leaks, hacks, or selling data to less responsible companies. Exploitation may include retaining data indefinitely for undisclosed purposes, shaping browsing experiences in a way that isn’t meant to merely sell something but that fundamentally alters one’s participation online, or commoditizing one’s online experience in such a way that it significantly devalues personal identities.

The Center for Democracy and Technology has some useful tips for maintaining your online privacy here. The main tips go without saying: strong passwords, protect your computer with encryption and security software, block ads and use private browsing, and keep up to date on privacy policy changes at the websites you frequent. Furthermore, steer clear of sites that have privacy policies that you don’t agree with. For example, Facebook does a lot of good things for helping folks stay in touch with one another, but they also use the data collected by our using the site and browsing other sites (if we remain logged in while browsing) to make money. There are ways to protect what data they have access to, but the best way is to stay logged out or don’t use Facebook at all.

Published by Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.