Spyware that prevents cookie deletion

by Marc Hedlund

Company Bypasses Cookie-Deleting Consumers - This is great. A company makes a piece of spyware that tries to prevent you from deleting your own cookies. Check out the quote from the founder/CEO:



Mookie Tanembaum, founder and chief executive of United Virtualities, says the company is trying to help consumers by preventing them from deleting cookies that help website operators deliver better services.


"The user is not proficient enough in technology to know if the cookie is good or bad, or how it works," Tanembaum said.


(Emphasis added.) What a joke. It's such a pain to even find the tool to delete cookies -- no one would seek it out unless they were both proficient and motivated. This seems like a great reason to delete Flash to me. Macromedia, you might want to get on this. (I spoke too soon -- Macromedia has already responded. See the comment below as well.)



On the other hand, it's a cool and amazing stat that 58% of web users have deleted cookies. What does that say about consumer demand for privacy?


5 Comments

jdowdell
2005-04-01 16:35:28
Shoshkele cookies
"Macromedia, you might want to get on this."


Already have:
April 1: http://www.markme.com/jd/archives/007396.cfm
March 31: http://www.markme.com/jd/archives/007384.cfm
March 15:
http://www.markme.com/jd/archives/007257.cfm


New technote:
http://www.macromedia.com/go/52697ee8


Note the quote in that Gonsalves article... the existing control UI may be better when integrated into parallel UIs for the various browsers.


I'm still not sure about that original Jupiter quote on "58% delete cookies", however... from what I could read of methodology it seems like it was based on interview questions, rather than on actual cookie-retention tests.


jd/mm

precipice
2005-04-01 16:38:08
Shoshkele cookies
Oops, sorry, I'll update the blog post. I should have checked.
Chirael
2005-04-02 09:16:35
Ah, FlashBlock :)
Ah, gotta love FlashBlock!
Other than very rarely for silly games I don't care too much about Flash.


98% of the time or more, it's just ads that want to jump around the page anyway; the 2% or less that I do want to do something in Flash, I'm more than happy to click the play arrow that FlashBlock provides :)

rzazueta
2005-04-04 09:43:57
Consumers deleting cookies
Over the last couple of weeks I've heard stats that between 40 and 60% of users delete their cookies. I've then heard baffled techies try to explain how impossible that figure is. But I think I can explain it:


AdAware


AdAware ideintifies many cookies as components of spyware and marks them for deletion when someone runs the program on their system. Even Spybot S&D does this. So the users may not be actively deleting cookies to protect their privacy - heck, experience has proven to me that most users haven't a clue what cookies are or how they're used - but, in the process of deleting the courge of malware from their systems, are tossing their cookies out as well.


I tell most of my clients not to sweat the cookies too much. When they run AdAware, it will often turn up hundreds of files identified as adware when, in reality, most if not all of them are just cookies collected from standard browsing around the web, put there by companies like DoubleClick and other ad servers. While a potential threat to privacy (though I REALLY feel the threat is totally overblown) they're not the main culprit in slowing down one's machine or making identity theft easier.

jwenting
2005-04-05 00:57:55
Consumers deleting cookies
AdAware only flags some specific cookies as potentially bad.
While it may be overly cautious, it doesn't (like you seem to think) just tell people to delete all their cookies sight unseen.


As to deleting them: I make sure most never make it at all. Setting up IE so any persistent cookie from an external source to the site domain is rejected is easy, setting it up so all other persistent cookies need explicit permission to be written is only slightly more involved (you need to check one more checkbox :) ).