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Data Communications - Cookies and Their Impact on Privacy

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Data Communications

"Cookies and their Impact on Privacy"

In today's fast paced world of internet commerce it would be hard to accomplish many of the tasks without the creation of "cookies." Since their advent, cookies have been given a bad name and associated immediately with a loss of privacy. In April of 2001 a newspaper article defined cookies as, "...programs that Web sites put on your hard disk. They sit on your computer gathering information about you and everything you do on the Internet, and whenever the Web site wants to it can download all of the information the cookie has collected." ( This article could not be any farther from the truth. Cookies are not programs and do not perform any actions as they sit on your hard drive. According to Netscape, "Cookies are a general mechanism which server side connections (such as CGI scripts) can use to both store and retrieve information on the client side of the connection. The addition of a simple, persistent, client-side state significantly extends the capabilities of Web-based client/server applications." As cookies have emerged to the forefront their association with their user's privacy has become more of an issue as time progresses.

Even though cookies serve an important role in today's e-commerce and advertising industries, it is impossible not to think of them as a breach in user security. There is something about a seemingly forced piece of information being saved on your computer for the use of a computer hundreds or even thousands of miles away. One can only think of one word. Privacy. Who's to say that company's are using the information gathered by these cookies and using them for good. How do I know that you are collecting cookies for your own advertising or e-commercial purposes rather than probing me as a candidate for the ever-present adware? Do I want vendors to know exactly what it is I usually shop for when I get online? Do I really need to save my shopping time by one or two clicks with the sacrifice of decreased privacy? These are questions that each user asks themselves when we look at our internet security settings or when we are denied access to a site based on our cookie settings. Many companies have been labeled with improper actions concerning cookies. A company named DoubleClick



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