Conventional wisdom holds that tracking cookies help websites track visitors and identify them when they visit a website.
However, a new report suggests that these cookies are being used for other things as well.
In the wake of revelations from The Guardian and The Washington Post that the National Security Agency has been collecting user data from web sites and advertisers, the US government has begun to crack down on these tracking cookies.
According to the report, the NSA has used tracking cookies to track users in the United States since 2007.
Tracking cookies are set to expire in two months, and the NSA only collects them if the cookie is used for a purpose that falls under the definition of “suspected or probable terrorist activity,” or is used “for any other purpose that is not identified by a user.”
According to The Next World, this definition of suspected or probable is not limited to terrorist activity, and it’s used to cover almost any purpose that can be described as “somewhat controversial.”
These tracking cookies are also used for advertising, and even the NSA’s own internal documents indicate that it has a list of cookies that are being monitored by the agency.
The Next World’s report states that, in the past, the agency has used these cookies to “track users across the web, including the content of websites and mobile apps that users visit.”
While the government’s use of tracking cookies has been around for years, The Next world found that “there are some indications that the NSA is using tracking cookies for other purposes as well.”
In one example, the tracking cookies were used to track a person from one website to another, and in another instance, the cookies were “used to track the user’s IP address from one web site to another.”
These are just a few of the examples, but The Next Wires article found that the tracking cookie list includes a number of different kinds of “stingy” cookies.
These types of cookies can be used to collect information about a person’s location, including their GPS location, IP address, and other identifying information, as well as the type of device that is used to access them.
“We were able to obtain a list that included a variety of different types of ‘stingys’ used by the NSA to track our users across multiple devices, including smart phones, tablets, and PCs,” The Next Worlds report said.
The report noted that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are also aware of these tracking cookie usage, and are working to change the definition and restrictions of these cookies.
The US government’s new definition of suspect or probable could be a good start, but there’s no guarantee that it will change the way people use these tracking tools.
The FBI has said that it is “committed to taking steps to protect our users and websites from being tracked.”
The US government is also encouraging the creation of a new government privacy rule to protect user privacy.