The Freeman's Burden:

To defend the principles of human liberty; to educate; to be vigilant against the ever expanding power of the state.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

NSA tracks web users

NEW YORK (AP) - The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them. These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.

"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy."


Blogger Memophage said...

To be honest, cookies aren't really that big a deal. I mean, I get cookies in my browser cache just by reading your blog. In fact, a cookie placed on your machine by the NSA website could only be able to used to tell if you'd visited the NSA site before, and when. Given that the HTTP protocol will tell them which URL you just came from, they could theoretically gather a tiny bit of your history, but not much.

Now, companies like Doubleclick can "track" users because they have contracts to integrate their cookies into so many sites. They correlate all the visitor data from all their clients, and can tell when the same user visits different client sites, and what URL they just browsed from. Not the same as tracking every site you visit, but still merits concern.

So, I'm not worried about cookies from the NSA web site specifically. But, if I found out they were contracting with Doubleclick or some similar company(ies) to gather browsing info on specific people, that would be a different story entirely.

12:20 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home