Keeping Track of Web Activity
There was a time, quaint as it might seem today, when Americans were worried about the government implanting cookies, the identifier files that websites place on your computer in order to recognize you. These days, though, we acquiesce to having Google, Facebook and other private-sector internet companies collect vast amounts of information on us [source: Curran]. So the threat of the government cookies may not seem like as big of a deal.
But if you want to know what information government might be collecting about you as a result of your visits to its websites, an article about privacy and security policies on USA.gov, the federal portal for government services, gives a detailed rundown. When you visit the site, it records your internet protocol address, the numerical code that identifies the router and device you're using. In addition, it records the website from which you linked to the USA.gov, the time and date of your visit, what searches you did and links that you clicked. It also even documents whether you use Chrome or Firefox, and what operating system is on your computer [source: USA.gov].
The government website also implants cookies on your computer that identify you, though not by name. "We use web metrics services to track activity on USA.gov," the website explains. "Government agencies only ever receive traffic statistics anonymously and, in the aggregate, officials can track trends in the website's usage." The site also explains how you can disable these so-called persistent cookies, in case you don't want to be tracked [source: USA.gov].
More Great Links
- Curran, Dylan. "Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google have on you." Guardian. March 30, 2018. (May 5, 2019) http://bit.ly/2PPX48L
- Director of National Intelligence. "The FISA Amendments Act: Q&A." Dni.gov. April 18, 2017. (May 5, 2019) https://www.dni.gov/files/icotr/FISA%20Amendments%20Act%20QA%20for%20Publication.pdf
- Gay, Lance. "White House drug office tracks computer visitors." Scripps Howard News Service. June 20, 2000. http://shns.scripps.com/shns/story.cfm?pk=COOKIES-06-20-00&cat=AN
- Gellman, Barton and Soltani, Ashkan. "NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say." Washington Post. Oct. 30, 2013]. https://wapo.st/2PM8cU5
- Gellman, Barton and Poitras, Laura. "U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program." Washington Post. June 7, 2013. (May 5, 2019) https://wapo.st/2POg1sc
- "Government Cookies Show Up Even When Prohibited." Tech Law Prof Blog. January 6, 2006. http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/tech_law_prof/2006/01/government_cook.html
- Govtrack.us. "S. 436 (111th): Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act of 2009." Govtrack.us. (May 5, 2019)
- Greenwald, Glenn and MacAskill, Ewen. "NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others." Guardian. June 7, 2013. (May 5, 2019) http://bit.ly/2PLZsxk
- Hautala, Laura. "NSA surveillance programs renewed by Senate." Cnet.com. Jan. 18, 2018. (May 5, 2019) https://cnet.co/2PM24eC
- "H.R. 837: Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act (SAFETY) of 2007." GovTrack.us. Updated January 26, 2008. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h110-837
- McCullagh, Declan and Broache, Anne. "Government Web sites are keeping an eye on you." CNET News. January 5, 2006. http://www.news.com/2100-1028_3-6018702.html
- Olsen, Stefanie. "Nearly undetectable tracking device raises concern." CNET News. July 12, 2000. http://www.news.com/Nearly-undetectable-tracking-device-raises-concern/2100-1017_3-243077.html?tag=st.nl
- Pew Research Center. "How Americans have viewed government surveillance and privacy since Snowden leaks. " Pewresearch.org. June 14, 2018. (May 5, 2019) https://pewrsr.ch/2PPxD73
- Singel, Ryan. "Are TSA's Tracking Cookies Legal?" Wired. February 14, 2007. http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2007/02/are_tsas_tracki.html
- "Spy Agency Removes Illegal Tracking Files." New York Times. December 29, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/29/national/29cookies.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1203374103-RXeNedoeBrDHiVw/w2avjQ
- Zetter, Kim. "Everything We Know About How the FBI Hacks People." Wired. May 15, 2016. (May 5, 2019) http://bit.ly/2PM6uSN