Evercookies: How to Tell If Someone is Watching You via Your Computer
Defining Cookies and Evercookies
A cookie is a small file that is stored on your computer and houses limited information about a particular website. Cookies make it easy for the web browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc.) to pull up the same website during another session, improving the overall web browsing experience.
Evercookies are supercharged cookies, staying on your computer even after you disable cookies. An evercookie hides code in virtual nooks and crannies that make up your web browser. The code essentially recreates the cookie after you’ve deleted it. Evercookies have created a battle between marketers who want data showing how you use the internet and what you search versus manufacturers who continue to fight this type of privacy breach.
Pros and Cons of Cookies
Cookies enhance your web-viewing experience but do so at a cost of privacy. Whether cookies are a complete violation of your privacy is subjective from person to person.
Pros of cookies include allowing websites to keep you logged in and greet you by name. In addition, those same websites can make helpful recommendations based on your browsing/shopping patterns. For example, if you have an Amazon account, the website can recommend products based on previous purchases and/or browsing. Further, cookies allow you to make payments by verifying your identity with a passcode rather than re-typing your credit card numbers.
Cookies are not as helpful when they originate from third-party websites, which use your computer data to change or modify how they advertise material to you on the web. Sharing data with third-party companies is widely viewed as a violation of privacy.
How Trackable is My Browser?
You can determine the track ability of your computer by pointing your browser at the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Panopticlick website. First, you can take the free browser fingerprint test, which will provide a detailed report of the information your browser saves and potentially shares with other users.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Evercookies?
You can set your computer to prohibit cookie-based tracking and even tell your browser to reject all cookies, but doing both may result in extended load times and cause some websites to fail to load. As part of general maintenance, you should occasionally clear your cookies.
Try these most recommended options for avoiding evercookies:
- Download BleachBit or Maxa-tools (compatible with most major web browsers).
- Add ShareMeNot, BetterPrivacy or NoScript to your browser (Firefox).
- Disable Flash.
- Manually remove cookies/evercookies regularly.
- Download Flush to remove cookies
Preventing evercookies from invading your computer isn’t as easy. Despite the abundance of tools to obscure your identity and increase your privacy, it’s difficult to protect yourself.
- What is a Evercookie, by Wikipedia.org
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- How to Delete Evercookie, by thewindowsclub.com
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- How a New Type of Evercookie Tracks you Online, by economist.com
- The Growing Misperception of HTML5, by rc3.org
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- Cookies, by Simon St. Laurent
- Cookie, by Russell Gray, available on iTunes for a fee