Internet Privacy is becoming more and more important to people as they spend more of our lives on the internet. While some search engines such as Google are providing a huge amount of amazing free services, people are all together concerned about how and where their private information is being used.
For years, tracking systems have been taking note of what you search and where you go on the internet without your consent. And today many people voluntarily divulge their personal details on and social networks and popular websites are being analyzed and tracked. Some of these tracking technologies include cookies, super cookies, and the "do not track".
Do Not Track is a technology that facilitate users to opt out of tracking by sites they do not visit, including advertising networks, analytics services and social platforms. Currently few of these intermediaries offer consistent tracking tools and opt out for blocking them are neither comprehensive nor user-friendly. “Do Not Track” provides a user with a simple, single, persistent choice to opt out of intermediary web tracking.
A cookie is a piece of text or a file that is sent to your computer from a web server and is resent by the client every time it uses the server. The technology is used to authenticate website users for subsequent visits to the same website, maintaining critical information about users, and also tracking session. Consequently, the user is saved from the repetitive tasks of filling in the login form each time he/she visits the website.
Unlike the cookie, the super cookie is different since it is independent of the browser. These cookies are frequently created using Microsoft Silverlight or Adobe Flash, and when a user visits a site that require either of these two programs, he is mistakenly opening his pc to the likelihood of creating a super cookie
The cookie technology is also used to differentiate website users. The user’s information can be held in the cookie making it possible for the users to gain personalization to the website. Depending on what a particular user prefers, a website can personalize the functionality and appearance of the website. Many websites offer the authorized users with a capability to modify and customize the web pages and obtain a custom-made look in the website (Vangie, 2010).
Many e-commerce websites use this technology in implementing shopping carts. For instance a buyer selects an item from ebay.com; it is stored in the website’s database. When the buyer checks out, ebay indicates the information about the items that had been shopped. This facilitates ebay to recognize shopping preferences for users. Without the use of tracking technology, the online shopping system would have been difficult (Dan, 2012).
The cookie technology has facilitated users to modify the content and layout of the site to create a tailored view of the website. The technology has facilitated advertisers to keep track of the on-site visitors’ behaviour. While recording the personal information of a user, confidential, cookies facilitate the advertisers in knowing the internet surfing routines of the users. Promoters can advertise a particular product targeting particular visitors on the basis of the information gathered from cookies.
On the other hand, the technology is susceptible to misuse. The contents of the cookie can be manipulated before being sent to the server. Changing the information that is contained in the cookie can mislead advertisers and the website as well. In case transaction information is contained in a cookie, an attacker can make changes to the value in the cookie resulting to losses on part of the e-commerce website or the user, involved in the transaction. The tracking technology is susceptible to this difficulty in some browsers. This technology may generate a conflicting state between the state stored in the cookie and that of the client. The tracking technology lacks the ability to differentiate between two users who using the same user account. This technology does not distinguish one user from another. They can only distinctly recognize the combination of a user account, a computer and a browser.
The tracking technology is vulnerable to hijacking. This involves interception information on the cookies by a malicious user. In unencrypted HTTP session, a cookie sent over the network is prone to a potential risk that the information held on the cookie can be stolen (Vangie, 2010). The tracking technology is condemned for the possible harms it can face but these technologies remain the easiest and one of the few ways to enable e-commerce and online shopping activities. Regardless of the competition and criticism, this technology is extensively used till date.
In conclusion, the tracking tools are useful, however; they have a great deal of potential for abuse. The advertisers not only try to track web activities, but also web applications that are poorly designed unintentionally generate security holes that malevolent attacker can take advantage of and access to the data in your account. They are easily altered because they are plaintext, this technology should not store data that is too sensitive. Poor design of this technology can result to financial loss and user information may also be exposed.
Dan, T, (2012).Just how bad is online tracking? Retrieved from http://www.itworld.com/it-managementstrategy/250828/so-how-bad-online-tracking