A few months ago we wrote about the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed “Do Not Track” list and legislation. One of the biggest invaders of your privacy is cookies that track you, and that respawn after you (think you) have deleted them, or, as they are known, “Zombie Cookies” (so-called because they come back from the dead).
As defined in Wikipedia, “a zombie cookie is any HTTP cookie that is recreated after deletion from backups stored outside the web browser’s dedicated cookie storage.” Variations on this theme include the Adobe Local Shared Object (LSO) cookie, and the Evercookie.
What they are tracking is, often, no less than your every move on the Internet.
There was a Zombie cookie law suit last summer, levelled against such industry giants as ABC, NBC, MTV, ESPN, MySpace, and Hulu, alleging that they were using Zombie cookies that respawned after being deleted because their backups were being stored in Flash. That technology was provided by Quantcast, who was the lead defendant in the Zombie cookie lawsuit.
That lawsuit was filed by privacy attorney Joseph Malley, who said of Zombie cookies that they were “as simple” as they were “deceptive and devious,” adding that “The objective of this scheme was the online harvesting of consumers’ personal information for Defendants’ use in online marketing activities.”
In December the Federal Trade Commission announced their “Do Not Track” legislation and list proposal and, almost certainly not coincidentally, the defendants settled the lawsuit a few days later. Said Quantcast, “We chose to settle the litigation to bring clarity and certainty to our customers and to avoid the burden and cost of further litigation.”
By settling, there has been no legal impact on the use of zombie cookies, and as we write this, the Do Not Track proposal is pretty much the only action moving against their unrestricted use.
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Now, just today, no less a venerable advocacy organization than Consumer Reports itself reached out to its members, exhorting them to contact their legislators to have them support the FTC’s “Do Not Track” list.
Here is what Consumer Reports is saying:
Zombie cookies? No, they are not a sweet Halloween treat. They are bits of code placed on your computer by companies that track you while you’re on the Internet — they come back even after you have carefully deleted them. And that’s not illegal.
Tools on your computer to “delete all cookies” are easily evaded, and the “zombie cookie” is just one example. Last fall, a programmer created a tool called “EverCookie” designed to make sure that tracking code cannot be removed.
We think you deserve some privacy while you’re online. So we’re pushing for new framework that would give you some choice in the matter. Help us by lending your voice now.
Join our campaign to support a privacy law and stop the unwanted tracking once and for all!
If you don’t mind that companies on the Internet track your activities, then you should be able to choose that.
But millions of people would like to say no. A Do-Not-Track mechanism is the simple way for you to say ‘no thanks’ to being monitored while you surf the web.
You should have the right to decide if your private information — your e-mails, your book choices, your health concerns, your research on retirement options — is collected, analyzed and profiled by online tracking companies that you have no relationship with and have never heard of.
Take a moment right now to show your support for privacy legislation in Congress.
As a reminder, you can read more about the FTC’s “Do Not Track” legislation and list proposal here.
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