Rise of the Super Cookie - How everything we do online is about to be tracked
It seems that the leaders of the Web have finally decided to bury the browser cookies, once and for all. But out of their ashes, something much more malevolent seems to be giving birth in the labs of Microsoft and Google (although expect other tech giants to release their contenders shortly as well). This new type of file set to replace HTTP cookie is called a Supercookie, and in short, it wants to find out everything there is to know about us. The scary thing? It just might be able to.
The HTTP cookie has been the touchstone of our online experience for almost 20 years. It started out as a way for a website to communicate with our browser by storing these tiny text files inside of it in order to preserve useful data about our activities on that site: everything from our log-in credentials to our browsing preferences.
However, soon enough, via the virtue of third-party cookies, these files have become the main mechanism behind targeted advertising on the Web. The method itself is a bit tech-savvy, but let’s just say the companies have developed a way to use these cookies to compile track records of our entire browsing history, and then analyze the collected data to bombard us with ads they think we might like. Now, with the Internet emigrating to other devices, as well as our inclining collective resistance to third-party cookies, it has become increasingly difficult for companies to provide targeted ads, which is good news for us, but bad news for the Web, since these ads are the main reason why most of the Web is free to browse.
Enter supercookies, which are imagined to track our activity across all of our devices by using a couple global accounts such as the ones we have at Microsoft or Google. By storing all this data in one place, companies are probably going to be able to know almost everything about you: approximately when you wake up (by when you first checked your PC or a phone in the morning), how you get to work as well as where you work (via GPS), what you like to do for fun, what shows you like to watch on TV etc. Sure, this data is going to be well encrypted and secured, but we’ve all witnessed tech moguls being hacked in the recent years. Just imagine how tempting a central base of all of our lives will be to hackers.
In conclusion, it seems that the guy on the sidewalk, dressed with a tinfoil hat and screaming at the passerbys that we’re all being watched had the right idea all along. If only we listened.