Oct 26, 2010

Technology is constantly changing and expanding into new territory. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about our legal system. It struggles to venture into the unknown as quickly as our phones and computers.

Currently, under fire are the small text files known as cookies. (To hear more about cookies check out our T3 covering online privacy).  The problem we face with some cookies (not all cookies are harmful) is they follow you on the Internet and you may not even know it. The original ruling in 2001 allowed companies to use cookies since people were able to opt out. Cookies were compared to listening on a phone call. It’s legal as long as the person agrees or has the chance to say no.

But new developments in cookies and online tracking have brought these files into question again. Today, cookies are much more sophisticated and can easily track what sites you are visiting, what your passwords are or even allow other cookies to run that you are unaware of. Most cookies have short lives and don’t spend much time on your computers. The ones you need to be worried about are third party cookies or long-term-tracking cookies. These can learn a lot about you from your searching habits over time.

Now companies are moving to our mobile devices. Marketing companies love knowing our hobbies and surfing habits. On mobile phones it’s even more difficult to turn off tracking software than on our computers. In some cases, such as the iPhone, it is almost impossible.

No matter what device you are surfing on, check into the privacy options. Know what you can turn off and where you need to be cautions. The law is working on catching up to protect consume rights, but until it does, you need to be your own advocate.  In the end it’s important to know what’s on your browser and who is tracking you.

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