Wednesday, October 13, 2010

HTML 5: Spyware built in?

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the evercookie created by Samy Kamkar. An article by Tanzina Vega in Sunday's New York Times talked about HTML 5, the evercookie, and the future of tracking on the internet.

HTML 5 is being lauded for getting rid of old code and making it easier to make widely viewable multimedia websites. But there is a downside. Not only does HTML 5 make viewing multimedia content easier, it also makes tracking users easier. Much easier. Samy Kamkars evercookie is one example of this.

Samy tells the NY Times that he didn't create the evercookie to track people, but as a means of showing the ease of tracking people on the internet with the latest technology. He did a very good job of that.

Advertisers, retailers and government agencies all love having more ability to track the online movements of people who visit their sites. And it is their right to ask for information. But it is also our right to refuse to give it. Just as I can fill prescriptions at CVS without having to get one of their bonus cards, I should be able to visit their online store without giving them any more information than is required for any transactions unless I want to. HTML 5, which I suppose could be said to be ushering in Web 3.0, makes that much harder. It is already difficult to take steps to protect your privacy. Between bad guys actively trying to compromise our data and the things we do ourselves, revealing too much on social networks or assuming privacy when there is none, privacy is definitely under siege. HTML 5 brings many advantages. With those advantages it also brings the potential for tremendous invasions of privacy if we allow it to be used that way.