First . . . take a deep breath and relax a little.
If our cookie notification banner brought you here because your web browser has third-party cookies enabled, you are not alone. The chart below shows the percentage of the 50,976 unique GRC visitors who visited our web site just last week who had the worst variety of [third-party persistent] cookies enabled . . .
These pages are designed to carefully and thoroughly explain the problems created by web browser “tracking” cookies planted into your web browser by “third-party” surveillance, profiling and advertising web sites you never visit. The resources here will help you to quickly and easily configure, test and verify your web browser's operation to thwart this type of online surveillance tracking. Offered here is a unique and comprehensive free facility designed to allow you to experiment with your browser's web cookie handling to test and verify that its operation is what you intend. And whenever you return here to GRC, we'll quietly check to make sure you're still safe from this form of tracking.
The Tracking Problem
Before we go any further it's important to mention that a great deal of tension exists between consumers, who almost universally prefer not to be tracked and profiled as they go about their business on the Internet, and advertisers whose goal and business model is to track and profile the Internet's anonymous users to any and every degree possible. The “market” for tracking is so substantial that companies now exist for the sole purpose of reselling Internet tracking technology. Web sites are offered surprisingly lucrative incentives to feed these “trackers” your personal and often private information, and to facilitate web and flash cookies, run tracking scripts, and enable any sort of tracking schemes and technologies that provide them with more information about users who would probably prefer to remain unknown.
The upshot of this is that Internet users are now engaged in a battle for our privacy rights. Late in 2010 there have been some rumblings in the United States about legislation that might require users to explicitly “opt-in” to Internet tracking systems. While such laws would be very welcome, the pro-tracking interests have a great deal of money, and in the United States money purchases legislative outcomes. So while we are very hopeful that pro-consumer privacy laws might arise from such talk, in the meantime GRC and this web site will be offering tools to help end-users take their privacy matters into their own hands.
Third-Party Web Browser Cookies: The Original Tracking Technology
Perhaps the most unfortunate and disturbing fact is that the people who created your web browser know all about this. They even provide a means for you to disable this unwanted and highly prevalent third-party surveillance. But with the single exception of Apple Computer's Safari browser, this noxious surveillance is set to “on” by default.
Most users have third-party cookies enabled only because they are unaware of the serious online surveillance and privacy invasion problems which result — and also because no one ever asked them whether they would like to be placed under surveillance and have their movements tracked across the Internet.
To see how important a browser's default settings (which are rarely changed) are, the chart below shows the percentage of our 4,322 visitors using Safari last week who have chosen to enable third-party cookies . . .
It's likely that those few Safari users who enabled third-party cookies are unaware of the consequences of having done so. But at least Apple (and NO other browser vendor!) is working to enforce the privacy of the majority of its users by default. Sadly, that's more than can be said about Microsoft or the developers of Firefox and Opera.
The beginning of this page invites you to take a deep breath and relax a little because, notwithstanding some functional bugs in common web browsers which we will discuss and explain, disabling these unwanted third-party tracking cookies is quick and easy.
These pages, and GRC's unique and comprehensive browser cookie forensics facility are the outgrowth of our long-standing annoyance with the fact that most popular web browsers are silently betraying their users who are unaware of the threat to their online Internet privacy created by third-party web browser cookies. This feeling is backed up by our observation that virtually all users who are aware of this threat to their online privacy become extremely proactive in web browser cookie management.
Therefore, we created our cookie monitoring and notification facility, like our ShieldsUP! facility many years before and more recently our DNS Server Spoofability Testing System, to provide an important wake up call along with information, education, and help to users who would care if they only knew how to maximize their online web surfing privacy.
Our "Web Cookie Operation" page, which follows, explains exactly how web browser cookies operate, and demystifies all of this first-party and third-party terminology.
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|Last Edit: Apr 28, 2012 at 11:32 (1,188.35 days ago)||Viewed 9 times per day|