Friday, April 8, 2005

Another Threat to Online Privacy

I'm a fairly upstanding person, but I still value what little online privacy I may have left. I'm always complaining about "cookies". I won't accept them unless absolutely necessary. Although they are "supposedly" to help a website remember you (why?) or remember what pages you've visited if you're ordering from them, I suspect their real purpose is just to track our movements on the web. In fact, one of the tech support people at my ISP told me he thought there was no such thing as a good cookie.

I'm also alarmed at the personal information some websites want if they make you "register" to use them. For example, both my local newspaper and the Philadelphia Inquirer ask for your birthdate! Ok, so maybe I shouldn't be so sensitive about my age, but there is another reason I haven't registered with either one. In an age in which we have to guard against identity theft, a birthdate is sensitive information that we shouldn't have to give out just for some registration purposes. We all ought to be concerned about the availability of personal information in this digital society. For example, this article investigates how information brokers sell social security numbers, often with little or no verification that the request was legitimate.

Now, getting back to cookies. It seems a company, United Virtualities, has found a way to restore cookies that have been deleted from hard drives! Their system uses Macromedia flash player. You may want to read this and use the link provided to get information on adjusting your flash player settings.

We need to let our legislators (state and national know) that we are concerned about privacy issues and want legislation to address them. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of CA has introduced several pieces of legislation that could help consumers with some online privacy issues.

P. S. I also e-mailed United Virtualities to tell them I was not fond of their cookie-busting technique. Links are current as of today, 4/8.

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