Saturday, May 06, 2006

Web Beacons

There many web users who fear that their activity on the Internet is being monitor. Other web users dismiss what they believe to be unwarranted paranoia. But just because they are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not right. This past year, there have been a number of unsettling activities among the search engine giants. In particular, both Yahoo! and MSN have been developing “web beacons.” Web beacons are invisible images and/or cookies designed to trace your steps on the Internet. More alarming, Yahoo! uses web beacons with their free e-mail service. Web beacons reveals if an e-message was received and can also reveal if any action was taken (e.g. the message was read or if the message was forwarded.) Yahoo! isn’t the only company using web beacons. Recently, Microsoft successfully filed a patent with United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The patent relates to a new technology they have developed to track web activity via invisible cookies (aka Super Cookies).

Cookies aren’t new. But, these web beacons are an entirely different monster. You can view regular cookies from your web browser and delete them just as easily. Unfortunately, that is not the case with web beacons. In order to get rid of web beacons, you need to submit an opt-out request. What troubles me is that I never knew, that by signing up for Yahoo! free e-mail service, I agreed to have them track me via web beacons.

Suggested Reading:

  1. M-Dollar: Microsoft patents the super cookie –by

  2. Yahoo web beacons may not shine with users –by

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