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Dateline: 27 January 2000 Early Edition
Read The Previous Edition
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Editorial
Who's Watching Your Wallet?
A lot of Web sites use cookies to store a user's preferences or help them analyse the passage of traffic through their pages. Indeed -- cookies are an extremely valuable and useful part of Web-browser technology.

Unfortunately there has been much misinformation spread by the ill-informed and ignorant about the privacy implications of cookies. There are still those who are adamant that malicious sites can harvest your credit card numbers and login IDs through the (ab)use of the cookies facility. Apart from a very few well documented and rapidly fixed bugs, this has never been the case.

Most modern browsers allow you to disable cookies -- and some people feel so insecure that they use this function. Personally I've always left my cookies enabled because I know the truth about exactly what kind of threat they pose to my privacy -- but I have just changed my mind.

Why? What has caused me to reverse my thinking on cookies? Has a major security hole been uncovered? Am I becoming paranoid in my old age?

No... none of the above (well maybe I'm getting slightly paranoid).

The real reason is that DoubleClick, one of the Internet's largest advertising agencies and ad-servers have decided that they're going to start matching people's names with their travels on the Web.

DoubleClick has always handed out cookies to people who visit sites carrying its ad banners -- but that's been of little concern because it doesn't allow them to identify who you are. Although they can track a particular user as they visit various DoubleClick-enabled sites, that user's identity has (to date) remained unknown to them. You become just another Mr or Ms "X".

However, DoubleClick have now changed their strategy and, according to reports published today, will be doing their best to match up those cookies with actual names and addresses. This means that not only will they know where you've been but also who you are.

How will they make this connection between your cookie and your name?

If you fill out a form on a participating site -- and this includes purchasing products over the Web, it appears that this information will, in some cases, be shared with Double Click.

In effect we have a Net-based Fly-Buys system -- except that YOU aren't getting anything in return for providing this valuable information about your surfing and shopping habits.

No doubt, once this information is correlated, your name and email address will be sold to any direct marketing company that wants to buy it -- and we all know that this will mean endless streams of junk-email in your mailbox.

So... it's cookies off for me -- how about you?

As a footnote -- this kind of data collection and sharing is likely to be illegal under New Zealand's privacy laws. I wonder if this leaves DoubleClick's New Zealand agents open to prosecution and if they'll be forced to disable this facility on all ads served up to NZ sites? Yet further proof that it's time for legislators to catch up with the Internet.

 


General News & Current Events:
7am.com | NZL News | AUS News | GBR News | World News

TODAY'S KEY NET-NEWS HEADLINES


Load in new window BT's $120m injection makes intention Clear
British Telecom will push its investment in Clear Communications close to three quarters of a billion dollars with the injection of $120 million or more to extend Clear's local fibre optic loops...
NZ Herald

Load in new window Regulators float speculative Net company clampdown
Share market regulators are considering a clamp down on speculative Internet and mining companies...
Fairfax

Load in new window Echelon 'Proof' Discovered
NSA documents refer to "Echelon." Is it the suspected international citizen spying machine or the name of a legal military project? The researcher who found them thinks it's the latter...
Wired

Load in new window Privacy fears raised by DoubleClick database plans
Having sealed its purchase of a direct marketing company, DoubleClick has begun signing up sites to create a network that will tie Web surfers' travels with their personal information and shopping habits--online and off...
CNet

Load in new window RealNetworks surges on earnings report
The Internet media pioneer's stock soars the day after the company reported its second straight profitable quarter and beat Wall Street estimates...
CNet

Load in new window China Clamps Down on Web
New controls are placed on the Internet to prevent sites from "leaking state secrets." Restrictions on news pages are on the way, too...
Wired

Load in new window Online Wall St. Journal Subscriptions Hit Record
Dow Jones & Co. , publisher of the Wall Street Journal, Wednesday reported record fourth-quarter subscription revenues for the online version of the financial newspaper...
Yahoo/Reuters

Load in new window Web Standards Group Unveils XHTML
The W3C, the Internet industry standards body, on Wednesday said the next step in the evolution of the Internet is ready to use...
TechWeb

Load in new window Japan Calls Emergency Meeting As Hackers Hit Again
apan called an emergency meeting Wednesday to boost computer security after humiliating raids on government Web sites by hackers, who linked one to a pornographic site and attacked Japan's war record on another...
Yahoo/Reuters


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