Major websites such as MSN.com and Hulu.com have been employing incredibly difficult to detect ‘supercookies’ to track people’s internet history and habits.
Traditional information harvesting involves advertisers installing a ‘cookie’ on computers, which legally helps track net-surfers online activities. But researchers have found what they call ‘supercookies’, which are capable of replicating cookie profiles, even after they’ve been deleted.
According to the WSJ, Hulu and MSN are among some of the companies using the technology to help profile people who surf their websites. The information gleaned from the method is being used to profile internet surfers, generating advertisements marketers believe will interest them.
Many of the companies using supercookie code claim their operations were inadvertent and have stopped them upon being contacted by researchers.
Microsoft’s Mike Hintze, the associate general counsel governing MSN, said “[when it] was brought to our attention, we were alarmed. It was inconsistent with our intent and our policy.” Since, Hintze claims that computer code has been removed from the site.
Hulu also responded, saying “it acted immediately to investigate and address” the coding once being notified by researchers.
As more services are undertaken online, such as the payment of bills and social interactions, the internet becomes a more attractive avenue to harvest information from; casting ambiguity over what are acceptable and unacceptable business practices.