Cookienator 2.6.41

Marton Anka in Network & Internet / Browser Tools

Cookienator screenshot

User Rating: 3.1 (22 votes)

Cookienator is a tool that will help you remain anonymous from search engines such as Google and other notorious web-usage trackers such as Doubleclick or Omniture.

Many websites install cookies in your browser, and these little bits of tracking data will be used to identify you for as long as you keep using your computer. In the past few years I have been alternating between religiously clearing my cookies from time to time, or neglecting to do so with hope that these corporations will live up to their vague promises of doing no evil.

Recently there has been much hoopla in the news about search-related privacy, or rather the lack thereof. The whole thing started about a year ago when AOL released three months worth of searches made by 650,000 of its users. The resulting uproar led to the firing of the responsible researcher, his boss, and AOL's CTO. The real problem, the problem that really irks privacy advocates, is not that the data was made public - the problem is that it's being gathered in the first place. It's being gathered and used in some way.

Just what exactly can such a profile tell about you? (Yes, call it what it is, it's a profile.) Put your tinfoil hat on for a moment. Your search history: what interests you, what problems and what fantasies you have. Your IP address: which countries you take your laptop to, which hotels you like to stay at, which companies you visit. With more and more sites using online analytics services, for example Google Analytics, the data will also include which sites you visit and what exactly you do there. Throw in the tracking capabilities that Google gained with the recent Doubleclick acquisition, and what they already had with Adwords, and things start to look really scary.

Put all this together and they pretty much have all your life in their computers. Governments are often accused of being invasive to your privacy, but in most advanced democracies you can at least petition to find out what exactly your country retains about you. On the other hand, the laws governing the gathering and use of personal data by corporations are spotty at best, especially when it's about supposedly anonymous information.

If you don't think this profiling can be invasive just read this article by the New York Times. The journalists easily tracked down one of the 650,000 AOL users based on the supposedly anonymous published data, and found out quite a bit of very personal information about her.

So, Why Cookienator?

Google was recently criticized about the 30-year expiration of their tracking cookie. This was a storm in a teacup on a slow news day: the cookie expiration date is always extended every time it's used, so even with a one-month expiration date they'd keep identifying you, provided you don't take a break from using that particular web browser for longer than a month. Google knows this (as does any computer engineer) so in order to put an end to this new PR issue they announced that they're changing the lifetime of the cookie to two years. Which still means that they will keep tracking you indefinitely, provided you don't take a two-year break from using your browser.

For me, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. I would dearly love to believe Google's claims to doing no evil, but when they start addressing concerns with unadulterated PR handwaving then it's all over. I want their cookies off my computer, and I want all similar tracking bugs dealt with.

Cookies *are* useful though, for example with Google I can choose to receive 100 results for my searches instead of the default 10. I'd prefer a hundred - but if I set my browser to reject all cookies from Google.com I won't be able to make it work this way. Also, setting up a per-browser cookie policy on all my computers in both IE and Firefox is a tall order. With Google I should also remember to block Google.co.uk as well as Google.com.hk - and the list goes on.

File Size: 512 kB License: Freeware Price: FREE
Platform: Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Windows XP, Windows Vista
Downloads: Total: 194 | This Month: 5 Released: 2009-10-18
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