NSA Tracking Tool: Google Cookies

Spies exploited advertising tools

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 10, 2013 11:50 PM CST

(Newser) – The latest revelations about NSA snooping will probably have some online privacy advocates itching to say "I told you so." The agency has "piggybacked" on the tools that advertisers use to track consumers, using cookies to single out targets for hacking, reports the Washington Post. A Google-specific tracking file was particularly useful in allowing the agency to identify visitors to websites and send out software that could hack their computers, according to files released by Edward Snowden.

Online privacy advocates have long pushed for a "Do Not Track" option to allow Internet users to opt out of being tracked by advertisers. Such efforts have recently ground to a halt but may now be reinvigorated. "There's increasingly a sense that giving consumers control over the information they share with companies is all the more important," says an analyst at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society, "because you're also giving them control over the information they share with government." Google joined other tech firms this week in calling for strict limits to government spying.

A Google sign at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
A Google sign at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
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On a macro level, 'we need to track everyone everywhere for advertising' translates into 'the government being able to track everyone everywhere.' - Chris Hoofnagle,
UC Berkeley Law

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