The Helpful & the Malicious: Cookies that Invade your Online Privacy

By Amira Jackson

Have you ever been concerned about the personal information you have on the internet being known by others? What about being sold? For a majority of internet users, many have not second guess their personal online privacy because of the false sense that a password offers security and discretion. While many internet users discount the security and privacy issues, there are people who are fully aware that their information is not safe and feel as if their privacy is being invaded. The fourth amendment institutionalized a citizens right to privacy and what these corporations are doing to it is an invasion and malicious.

Do you think you’re the only one who knows about what you send, search and purchase online? Unfortunately, you’re not. Online privacy is more of a hypothetical concept than an achievable one.Signing up for a service online that is free of charge, or almost any other service you share personal information with will most likely be shared with another service or company, and you, have no say or control over what gets shared.

        Look around on a web page you’re on and you’re bound to find a company offering their product or service to you. Those advertisements are not randomly posted there; they are specifically designed for you. Say you recently googled tips on how to stay healthy, a few clicks,websites, and hours later, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll  an advertisement of some sort related to your recent searches. A website that holds your personal information can be sold to a advertising company or marketing firm in attempt to promote their products to you through information they bought from that service you’ve signed up for because of malicious cookies. To begin to explain, “A cookie is  a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user’s web browser while the user is browsing that website. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_cookies) When you enter a Web site using cookies, you may be asked to fill out a form providing personal information; like your name, e-mail address, and interests. This information is packaged into a cookie and sent to your Web browser, which then stores the information for later use. The next time you go to the same Web site, your browser will send the cookie to the Web server. The message is sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page from the server. Cookies normally do not compromise security, but there is a growing trend of malicious cookies. These types of cookies can be used to store and track your activity online. Cookies that watch your online activity are called malicious or tracking cookies. These are the bad cookies to watch for, because they track you and your surfing habits, over time, to build a profile of your interests. Once that profile contains enough information there is a good chance that your information can be sold to an advertising company who then uses this profile information to target you with interest specific adverts.” (http://www.webopedia.com/DidYouKnow/Internet/all_about_cookies.asp) Because of these malicious cookies, many online user’s information has been sold, and that’s what where many online user’s problems root from. What has been done in the privacy of their computer has been exposed to big corporations and marketing companies where they take your information, and “harass” users with their products or services. These companies shouldn’t have the right to buy someone’s personal information for their personal benefit. It’s an invasion of privacy and they shouldn’t have the right to obtain your information unless you personally approve it. While some might think, “Ok, businesses are trying to sell me products that I might actually want to buy. what’s the big deal?”  The one’s who are concerned about their personal information being expose see this as it being a crude invasion of privacy for corporations to be able to rummage and purchase information in effort to sell their products. These are the people who highly value their privacy and feel as if their fourth amendment rights are being violated, the reason why people feel like what you do on the internet should be private and shared with your consent. The internet, much yet internet privacy is full of loopholes and fine print. There is no real way of telling whether or not a user’s information is safe on the site you gave it to. That’s why the internet should be private. One should not have to be concerned about information being exposed, we should be able to use the internet freely without being concerned about companies tracking our information and watching someone’s activities. Whatever the case may be, what you do on the internet is your business and your business only. There should be 100% confidentiality in your searches, purchases, and actions because its not meant to be seen or shared by anyone else and you have the right to privacy.

Recently, Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center has been trying to shine light on online privacy issues. he speaks about “an individual’s right to control his or her personal information held by others.” His purpose is to “seek to protect information privacy as new technologies and new institutional practices emerge.” He “looks at recent controversies involving domestic surveillance, identification systems, social networking sites, video surveillance, DNA databases, and airport body scanners.” (http://epic.org/misc/gulc/) Rotenberg is famous face for encouraging internet privacy. He has brought this issue of personal information exposure to a higher power, in attempt to change the way information online is being used.

       He reiterated how privacy is the number one concern of internet users; “Globally, 56% of those surveyed by GlobalWebIndex reported that they felt the internet is eroding their personal privacy(http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/21/privacy-tools-censorship-online-anonymity-tools).  Internet privacy is something no one should have to worry about; the government has done little to help protect user information and there has been little done to make the internet a safer and more secure place for people to do activities. This would look like stopping malicious cookies from being embedded into an internet user’s computer, prohibiting marketing corporations and services from buying user information. There are many websites that information to technology users about the dangers of using the internet and how to help to protect yourself and others against spammers and potentially dangerous websites and scams.

While some people and companies believe wanting to completely protect your internet privacy could make you the bad guy because of the idea that you have something to hide, you have your rights for it. Everybody who wants their information private should have the right to keep it private. The Fourth Amendment was created for a person’s right to privacy and should be taken seriously because online privacy is not taken seriously enough and should be applied here also. Because major companies have heavy influences, make large profits from exploiting a user’s information, and benefit from it, its extremely difficult to get the government and other corporations to put a stop to it because they see the how effective the advertisements can be (http://www.polisci.ccsu.edu/trieb/InfluGov.html). There’s been a lot of talk and little physical action that has actually helped increase the security of people’s information and personal data.As of now, the issue with internet privacy is complex and discouraging. There is some talking about what should and needs be done to assure that we have protection and security over our browsers, but there’s also malicious cookies being  spread. For the moment, its best to use websites and browsers in which you have the control to allow tracking or not.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Amber Williams says:

    Even if you don’t put your real information on the internet, is there a way for big companies to figure out who you really are after they buy your information? If so, what happens?

  2. Angela Walker says:

    Do you think if people know what is happening with their private information and how the it is being use on the internet that they would try to get these companies to change?

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