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  1. #1
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    Cookies: invading our privacy

    Cookies, the little pieces of code dumped surreptitiously into your computer by the Internet sites you visit, may be banned by the European Parliament as an invasion of privacy and a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    ...

    The EU report suggests that "serious intrusion" into the privacy of Internet users could be caused by the use of "cookies, spyware, Web bugs, hidden identifiers and other similar devices that enter users' (computers) without their explicit knowledge or explicit consent in order to gain access to information, to store hidden information or to trace the activities of the user", it says. "The use of such devices should therefore be prohibited..."
    http://www.theage.com.au/business/20...X8XH04NTC.html

    What does everybody think of this?

    Seriously, I know a lot of people who have spoken about cookies in a negative manner. Even the admin here at college (the same one that has set up our http proxy to block all banner ads) warns us not to enable cookies. Once he almost set up the proxy to block cookies for everybody.

    Why do people, and often people who have a thorough technical knowledge of the web, campaign against the usage of cookies, so much so that they want them blocked from use altogether? I find that many members of the public have been fed misleading information from these so-called experts about internet privacy, linking cookies to spyware.

    I fail to see how serious privacy issues can be linked to the humble cookie. They are the internet equivalent of the rubber stamp you get on your hand when you go into a showgrounds or a club.
    Last edited by mmj; Nov 6, 2001 at 05:18.
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  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    Hmmm that idea is interesting - but with the global nature of internet servers I'd love to know how they plan to implement it!

    I hate spyware, and agree that "informed consent" should be a prerequisite - but the same issues apply. What is illegal in one country is legal in another. I think a far better focus would be educating the users as to how things work. MS has actually gone some way to doing this with their new "security" browser settings (and warnings). If people are informed, then none of these things are a problem.
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  3. #3
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    When it comes to keeping track of a user's choices (for instance, in forums or in a shopping cart) there's only a very limited set of options available. Without the use of cookies, the information may need to be generated in the URLs, which would in turn become stored in logs, exposing this information to any link on the chain which actually does keep a log. I mean, it is arguably less private.

    It frustrates me that the interactivity of a web site is being held back by the unwillingness of users to accept cookies, and of the www organisations (w3c, microsoft, aol, ...) to support newer standards for preserving data between web pages, due to this unwillingness. IE6's refusal to accept cookies under most circumstances is a step backwards in interactive web functionality, in my opinion.
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  4. #4
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    I disagree. It's a step towards choice. I agree that cookies are immensly useful in order to develop site functionality (I use them on most of my sites), but ultimately they are "hidden" files which have not been expressly requested by the user. They take up hd space (arguably only a tiny amount, but some nevertheless) and as such appropriate users electronic real estate. That could be argued to be theft (ok, under the TA'78 it couldn't, being as there is no intent of permenant deprevation, but you see the issue).

    Like I said, I think the issue is resolved by educating the users, who will be more willing to accept cookies if they truly understand what they do. Perhaps a protocol could be developed whereby cookies actually send a "mission statement" to the browser, which is displayed in security settings and allows users to choose whether or not to allow the cookie. This would be picked up and used quickly if users were educated not to accept any cookies without such statements, and long term everyone would be happier.
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  5. #5
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    BTW I wasn't quite sure where to post this so I put it in General Chat. Do you think it would be better in a different forum?
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  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    hmmm - having just scanned the forums, I don't think there is one that's more appropriate. Perhaps a "Internet developments" or "Net News", or even "www community" section could be gleaned from GC? A subforum perhaps?
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  7. #7
    will code HTML for food Michel V's Avatar
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  8. #8
    SitePoint Wizard Defender1's Avatar
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    without cookies you wouldn't have online shopping.
    without cookies posting on bb's would get very annoying and tedious.(you wouldn't know where you've been, and would have to type your user/pw ever-stickin-time)
    without cookies your internet has no history.

    and frankly, the idea of trying to code 10 mile long url's doesn't make me very happy.

    Keep the user informed. Let them know that a cookie is being stored. that way we can work to better the reputation of the cookie.
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  9. #9
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    Yep, the public certainly needs to be kept informed and I think there is a lot of misinformation being circulated.

    I think the main problem is that many people are being told that cookies are evil without being told what cookies are or what they do. One who is informed about what a cookie is, such as myself, realises their benefits.

    I do agree that people who don't want to accept cookies should be given that choice and should be educated. Given that they are educated about the purpose of cookies, they would also know that they would lose some functionality without them, and would accept this.

    What I don't agree with is any attempt for an organisation or government to authoritatively block or outlaw the use of cookies, removing our choice.
    Last edited by mmj; Nov 6, 2001 at 06:17.
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  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy TheOriginalH's Avatar
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    Well, you'll get no argument from me there. I think, as I have said before, that governments of any description should butt out of the net full stop.
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  11. #11
    SitePoint Wizard iTec's Avatar
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    Its stupid. It will never work and thats really all you have to say. The net is global, no govenment can control it, therefore no govenment can regulate it. if the law got passed then i think you would find that almost as soon as it did that it would be removed as Billions of dollars would be lost as a result of a complete ecommerce flop (no cookies no shop!)

    govenments the world round have tried to contain the internet, and the only ones getting close to it is china, and look at what they get (nothing)

    Australia has been putting through a few of its own stupid laws, ie: Gambling sites cant be "hosted in australia", stupid thing about this one is that a US hosted online casino is fine... wheres the logic in that??? and they also did the same for the online porn industry in australia... just as stupid as the online casino laws... millions were spent on creating the porn law, and so far i think they have shut down about 6 websites (real cost effective)

    same thing will happen with this law.. it will fall flat on the politician that created it.

    ----------------------- RANT 2 ----------------------
    People are begining to understand the importance that cookies play, i think the above law has probably been throwen around since the late 90`s when very few non commercial sites were using cookies and it was mainly ad networks and the big players that were under threat of such law,

    The one thing that really peeves me off is that people allways listen to the "privacy advocates" if they are so concerened about there privacy then what are they doing out of there cave?

    another thing that i find would ease the whole privacy issue would be that websites stop requiring information such as address, suburb, phone number and fax number ect ect, ie: post code and country are fine... but unless the person is asking you to send them (snail mail) information then the address should not be a required field.


    okay, ive finished now...

  12. #12
    SitePoint Wizard Ian Glass's Avatar
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    I concur; I think the biggest threat to innovation is misinformation. Here’s an example.

    ME: Mom, the computer frozen up for awhile.
    MOM: Is it a cookie?

    People are told that Internet technologies are bad, but no one ever explains why. And, if they do, it’s usually some lack-luster, one-sided explanation of DubbleClick. I really think that most people are under the impression that cookies are software in and of themselves that run on your computer.

    These privacy advocates are the worst thing that could happen to the Internet. They shout wolf every chance they get. People will say the worst things at hair solons, but they refuse to give their name to an e-commerce site? It’s ridiculous.

    P.S. I like the thing about cookies violating basic human rights. That’s funny.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Wizard iTec's Avatar
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    ahh yes the basic human right wereby we have a right to privacy, yet the govenment will conduct a cencus every 4 years asking us about every personal bit of information..... oh but wait a second... the cookie that told the govenment that i am a 19 year old male living in a brick house on a quiet street somewhere in sydney and have a mother and father who are not divorced and i also have a 12 year old brother and 7 year old sister.... DAMN COOKIES!!!

    EU Citizens' Freedoms and Rights, Justice and Home Affairs Committee
    Ahhh there name contradicts what they are doing... Freedoms and Rights... why cant i have the right to accept or deny cookies, why do they have to make that decision for me? it is MY right to choose what i allow on my computer not theres!

  14. #14
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Ian Glass


    ME: Mom, the computer frozen up for awhile.
    MOM: Is it a cookie?

    People are told that Internet technologies are bad, but no one ever explains why.
    Exactly. And the advocates rely heavily on the fact that people do not understand the technical reality, and therefore will believe in any science fiction that they are fed.

    Your example with "Is it a cookie?" is exactly the kind of thing.

    People believe that cookies are viruses or malicious code (I'm not kidding - people actually believe that cookies are malicious) that are sent to our computers, and they execute on our computers, collecting information from all our programs, hard disks, etc, and maybe even doing malicious things to our computers. The reality is that cookies are a simple part of the existing http specifications - a single line of text in the http response header, and if the client wishes to store and/or return that cookie, a single line in the http request header. It's one of many features of http that allows the http server to have a two-way conversation with the client, and it is an optional feature (the client may ignore it).
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  15. #15
    SitePoint Wizard Ian Glass's Avatar
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    Cookies enable web sites to have memories. Although, I think that people will say they want the highest level of security, I think people really want convenience. They’re only saying that it is a big deal because the advocates say it is. The general public have been fed with the idea that these boxes (computers) are evil (HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey) and they’ll try to hurt us if we’re not careful.

    Soon, people will realize that most of the privacy concerns touted by these experts is puffery. Witch is unfortunate because there are some big problems with security on the Internet, but they will probably be ignored until it’s difficult to fix. That’s what happens when you cry wolf…


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