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How I feel about browser cookies
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saxifrage00
I have Firefox set to ask me every time an unknown site tries to set a cookie on my computer. I almost always click “Deny”, as the vast majority of web sites have no reason to keep data on my computer. What I really wish is that, instead of a “Deny” button, it was a “Fuck Off and Die” button.

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As a guy that builds websites I see this differently.

Maybe this seems like a stupid question, but this is a very complex issue, so what specifically bothers you?

You object to them "storing data". I just analyzed my cookies.txt file, and the median size per site is 97 bytes. So I guess this isn't about hard drive use.

No, my objection is to cookies being stored by sites that are not offering me a login, customised user options, or any other feature that would necessitate persistent data. The majority of sites that want to set cookies are news sites and their "associated" ad servers. The worst offenders are those sites that set a cookie with a name such as "acceptsCookies" or "testcookie" and, it being denied, proceed to try setting fifteen more.

Sites that I have cookies for are sites like Google, LJ, Slashdot, and the like. Until I try to use a feature that obviously needs to use cookies, I expect that none will be set by simply viewing a page.

I guess this is a matter of expectations. I expect to be tracked (as some anonymous surfer) as I use a site's services.

I think advertising of any kind is an abomination, but the website owners also need to understand how their site is being used. Cookies tell the site owner who is making repeat visits, and the patterns of use over time.

I wouldn't mind, if I knew what they were storing. Asked politely, I'm pretty accomodating. If it isn't obvious what their cookie is for by the name, though, it goes the way of any other request of me that isn't justified with an explanation.

Perhaps cookies are an outdated model for this sort of thing. Well... perhaps not, since I'm in the vast minority of objectors.

I wouldn't mind, if I knew what they were storing.

What would be an example of a bad thing to store?

All cookies are precisely equivalent to a unique ID with a timeout. Most have some other info, but that part is all redundant. They can and usually do keep all that other info server-side anyway, tied to your unique ID.

If you allow user tracking at all, there's no loss of privacy if they're allowed to store some of the data they know about you on your computer.

That's just it. I don't agree with user tracking.

I don't do Air Miles, or any other "loyalty" card unless they have it in writing that they don't use it for tracking.

A web site is a particularly hard sell when it comes to tracking. The usual argument is that they're providing a free service (content) in exchange for some info about by browsing patterns. My answer to this is that they are voluntarily providing content in a publicly-viewable space. If they want people to pay (whether with money or barter) for something they're voluntarily posting in a publicly viewable space, they better expect to 1) do all the work for it, and 2) not expect me to help them.

(1) entails that they not use my machine to make money without my knowledge and consent. (2) entails that if they want me to pay them for their content, they ask me straight out. Anything else is invasive and violates my autonomy.

Sorry if I'm being overly argumentative here. Excessive cookies are an annoyance, I agree.

BTW, it has been shown that cookies are completely unnecessary, in principle, and are actually rather damaging to the web's architecture. So they were outdated the day they were invented.

Argumentative is okay, especially when it's dosed with humbleness like this. It reminds me that my rough-edged opinions don't live in a vacuum. :-)

And that's an interesting article.

I guess, too, a large part of my objection is ideological: the system is set up expecting me to play along, and that doesn't work so well anymore now that there are hostile (in terms of toward my interests as an autonomous individual) web sites out there that take advantage of the trust that was built into the original 'net. Web sites, particularly commercial ones, shouldn't expect my cooperation or trust—they need to earn them. So few earn them, so they don't get them. That article is interesting because its architecture puts everything in the open: I know what transaction I'm participating in under that setup.

Yes! It would be *so* nice to actually have control over what got put on *my computer* GAH!

*hates adware*

Yeah... adware is a whole 'nother hate-fest. I know Windows has its uses (and when I get my new computer, it will definitely feature Windows to enable some of those uses *cough*Half-Life 2*cough*), but I'm so glad I don't need to deal with adware and spyware on linux.

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