Friday, December 30, 2005

The Pots are black, too ...

... maybe even blacker.

So our ever watchful guardians (just to link two) are still at it, exposing every little tiny thing the US Government is doing regarding surveillance of people far and wide. Or so it seems. (HT: Instapundit and Captain's Quarters)

Several of our guardians have been digging so deep that they have exposed a sinister plot by the NSA to place cookies on the computers of anyone who happens to visit their site. More likely, some John Doe just called a reporter to tell of what they found. (Karl Rove, maybe?)

Anyway, cookies can be innocuous, or they can be rather telling of a user's practice. Some cookies stay on as long as you have your browser open (session only), some stay on forever, if forever means you never clean your cache of temporary files, including cookies. Of course, all will be rendered "session only" if you set your browser so that it cleans all cookies when you close your browser.

The point that must be kept in mind is how is the cookie used not how long does it stay resident on the computer. This, the reports are not clear about.

But let's take some examples. Captain's Quarters checked his cache generally with some very interesting results. I checked only into the Guardian page to read the story. (Liar! You went to check cookies for that page. - Ed) They gave me 6 cookies -- 4 from the Guardian and 2 from Revenue Science. Here are their names and expiration dates:

Guardian: GU_LOCATION, 1/20/2006; GU_ST, Session; GU_revsci, 12/31/2005; and GU_MU. 12/28/2015
Revenue Science: NETSEGS_E05516, 12/25/2025; and NETID01, 12/25/2025

I took a look at the source information. The Guardian embeds a 1 pixel by 1 pixel (read: smaller than the dot over an "i") GIF image from Revenue Science into the page for some odd reason. Who would put an image into a webpage that a casual reader would think is a piece of dust on the monitor screen? Would the Guardian like to explain that to their visitors? I suspect the NSA wasn't doing that.

Now, I also went to the NY Times to read their story. (You lie like a rug. -Ed) They have cookies, too. The NYT's places 11 cookies on your computer (3 from and 8 from nytimes), and let's Question Market add two more. Here's those:

NY Digital: TData, 10/07/2021; ANXD, Session; and TID, 10/07/2021
NY Times: TID, 10/07/2021; ANXD, Session; s-session, Session; s_pers, 12/30/2015; adxcs, Session; RMID, 12/30/2006; TData, 10/07/2021; and dl_dn_seen; Session
Question Market: endsurvey, Session; and linkjumptest Session

The NY Times also lets add an invisible GIF onto their page for some odd reason. Actually, it is not invisible. It's white so you cannot see it in the white background. I wonder why? Maybe someone should ask them.

There might even be lot's of other things we would never know about unless one dug deep into the Times' or Guardian's practices.

So, the Guardian webpage puts 8 cookies into your computer, one that lasts a whole year and 3 that last 10 to 20 years. The NY Times, clogs up your cache with 13 cookies, 5 of which last 10 to 15 years. I say clogs because they are using your computer to report your activities to two different groups at the NY Times. It's a wonder they don't have you fetch coffee for them, too.

But, whatever. If the NSA wants to put a cookie on my machine for 30 years, or the Guardian for 10 to 20 years or the NYT's for 10 to 15 years, more power to them. It's not like they get any trackbacks after my session ends 'cause my browser option is set to clean them out when I close the browser down.

But I do appreciate that our guardians are on the case for others. I wouldn't want anyone to worry that due to some lightning strike or some other electrical conductivity ground condition, their computer might suddenly light up and report back to the NSA in 2034 from the garbage dump that they haven't used their computer in 25 years.

Keep it up, folks, you're a laugh a day.

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