Ask Leo: What’s a “super cookie”?

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By Leo Notenboom

I just read an article where Congress is asking the FCC to look into sites that use “super cookies” without the computer user’s permission or even knowledge. What are “super cookies”? And how can I protect my computer from them?

I’ll start out by saying that protection options are currently relatively limited, if even possible.

Super cookies are the result of website owner’s desire (or more often, that of the advertising networks) to accumulate data about computer users and the sites that they visit – even those users that disable or clear cookies in their browser regularly.

And then, there are “ever-cookies”.

Cookies

Cookies are part of the http protocol that your computer (more specifically, your web browser) uses to request web pages and that web servers use to deliver them.

When you visit a site, say http://ask-leo.com, the web server may return with the page – a small text file that contains some data. In a sense, your computer says, “Please give me http://ask-leo.com/some_page.html”, and the server replies, “Here’s the page that you requested and here’s some data that I’d like you to hold on to for me.”

The data can be anything and is stored somewhere on your computer by your web browser.

The next time that the computer requests a page from that same domain – ask-leo.com, in this example – it automatically sends the contents of that text file along with the request. To continue the analogy above, your computer might say, “I’d like http://ask-leo.com/whatever.html, and here’s that bit of data that you asked me to keep before.”

That’s it. That’s a cookie.

But What is a Super Cookie?/Article Continued Here

This post is excerpted with Leo’s permission from his blog.

FaceBook URL: Leo’s Facebook

Twitter URL: http://twitter.com/askleo

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