This news shows just how little some of the public knows about technology:
NEW YORK – The National Security Agency’s Internet site has been placing files on visitors’ computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them. These files, known as “cookies,” disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.
“Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern,” said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. “But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following thegovernment’s very basic rules for Web privacy.”
Until Tuesday, the NSA site created two cookie files that do not expire until 2035 _ likely beyond the life of any computer in use today.
Don Weber, an NSA spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday that the cookie use resulted from a recent software upgrade. Normally, the site uses temporary, permissible cookies that are automatically deleted when users close their Web browsers, he said, but the software in use shipped with persistent cookies already on.
“After being tipped to the issue, we immediately disabled the cookies,” he said.
Cookies are widely used at commercial Web sites and can make Internet browsing more convenient by letting sites remember user preferences. For instance, visitors would not have to repeatedly enter passwords at sites that require them.
But privacy advocates complain that cookies can also track Web surfing, even if no personal information is actually collected.
Who are these privacy advocates that talk about cookies that track Web surfing? Do they even know what a cookie is? A cookie is a small text file that the web browser creates to keep track of data for a particular site (for example, user names, passwords, an ID for your session so that they know what shopping cart they are using, etc). Each browser can be set to accept or deny cookies. This webjournal almost didn’t let me post this message because it couldn’t remember my username/password and told me to enable cookies.
This article is scary hype trying to make the public even more scared of those trying to protect us. As Rob over at SayAnything states, this is a non story. Read his post, and check out the comments– they are spot-on. Take it from a computer geek!