Cookies Invading Our Privacy Essay, Research Paper
Cookies now constitute a real threat to personal privacy, but they are perfectly legal. A cookie is a tiny file that a Web sites place on the user’s hard drive when the user accesses the web page. Each cookie has a specific identification number. The cookie can gather personal information such as email addresses, full names, mailing addresses, and phone numbers, and then it sends the information back to the web site (Samborn 26). Whereas TV, radio, and print record only demographics or neighborhoods, a cookie keeps record of what an individual is actually looking at and doing on the net. As a result, Web site operators or companies are able to build very detailed profiles from that behavior (Green 48). These profiles play a major role in online marketing. In the past, marketers knew their customers just as a number, but when DoubleClick, an Internet advertising company, bought out Abacus Direct, DoubleClick was able to combine its databases with the names and addresses form Abacus’ catalog customers. Now web surfers can no longer surf the net without their computers being tagged to their names. (Quinn 63) Even more disturbing, hackers can now intercept the data from the cookie. With a specially constructed URL, a hacker can read cookies from any domain because the special URL fools a computer into thinking that the hacker’s computer is the domain site. As things stand now, Federal laws are far from clear when it comes to what cookies can collect and how the information can be used. According to US Sen. Robert Torricelli, “Congress has considered several privacy bills in the past few years, but only one, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, has been passed” (Samborn 27). This problem is only going to escalate if something isn’t done to limit what Internet sites and marketing agencies can collect from people surfing the Web.
Green, Heather. “Privacy Online: The FTC Must Act Now.” Business Week 29 Nov. 1999: 48.
Harrison, Ann. “Keeping Web Data Private.” Computer World 8 May 2000: 57.
Quinn, Jane Bryant. “Fighting the Cookie Monster.” Newsweek 28 Feb. 2000: 63.
Samborn, Hope Viner. “Nibbling Away at Privacy.” ABA Journal June 2000: 26-27.