"In most cases, when a banner ad triggers a spyware alert, it's more that your spyware is trying hard to impress you, than actually protecting you from any real harm.
You see, most so-called "tracking cookies" and "web bugs" are 100%, totally, utterly harmless. "
"But anti-spyware vendors give these simple counters scary names ("tracking cookies" and "web bugs") so you'll feel like their software's doing something useful."
I did a search of his past issues, and Fred has been consistant about this issue for years. This is what Fred wrote in a LangaList on 6/28/2001 :
"Another reader wrote in to say that I was wrong about Web bugs and Cookies--- he didn't want "these programs" tracking him!
If they were programs, I'd agree. But they're not. In fact, they are not active in any way at all. Usually the only way a cookie or bug can become associated with any private, personal data is if you *voluntarily* provide private data by filling out a form on a web page associated with the cookie or bug. If you don't give out that data, then almost all the web bug fear-fantasies simply collapse. With no private data to work with, the bugs pose no risk to your privacy.
OK, you might say, but isn't it at least *possible* for bugs and cookies to be used for evil purposes?
Sure. But the chain of events needed to pull off a true covert privacy breach via Web bug--- that is, using a bug to obtain truly private data without the knowledge and, at some level, *cooperation* of the person being targeted--- is so remote as to be almost silly.
Consider this argument-by-analogy: Each year, a few of the Earth's 6+ billion humans are killed by elephants. So, it's 100% true to state that statistically, the odds of you dying under the flat feet of a pugnacious pachyderm are NOT zero. It *could* happen. But for most of us, the risk is so small--- and so easily avoided--- that it makes no sense to equip ourselves with anti-elephant technology. (And if you don't believe me, then perhaps you'll want to buy this marvelous little program I wrote: It's 100% guaranteed to prevent elephants from stepping on your PC, or your money back! <g>)
Reasoning in the same vein: The risks from bugs and Cookies are also nonzero, but small and easily avoided. With just a little common sense, the risks from Cookies and bugs drop so low they're just not worth worrying about.
But all the above doesn't matter to some people: It's almost as if they *want* to believe that Cookies and Web bugs are somehow actively spying on them, or "looking over their shoulders as they surf," even when you can conclusively prove that most Cookies and bugs are utterly harmless."
Now check out what Fred wrote in the next paragraph:
"At one frightening end of the spectrum, I've received email from what seem to be seriously disturbed individuals who believe that unnamed "someones" are out to track their every keystroke and click; believing that their click stream is somehow incredibly valuable or interesting to others. Let me tell you, some of these emails are *really* out there, and the writers seem to be a few short steps from full-blown delusional paranoia. Scary--- and sad.
But even at the gentler end of the anti-Cookie, anti-bug spectrum, there's something that appears to me to be a form of mass hysteria. I think there's a psychology thesis in all this for someone. 8-) "
I wonder if Fred ever apologized to all of us "seriously disturbed individuals" who obviously "seem to be a few short steps from full-blown delusional paranoia"? I wonder if the spyware community still makes him "Scary---and sad".
It seems to me that Fred took a stand on this issue years ago and after painting the spyware community a bunch of nuts, he is refusing to backtrack on the stand he has taken, even faced with the facts.
Now, I have to admit that I am not an expert on this subject. What I did do was write Fred and expressed my concern. What I would like to know is what the experts here in this forum think about what Fred said. If you disagree with Fred, please tell me what you think and drop Fred an email so he will re-visit this issue. Many novices read his newletter and consider it the bible, do you think Fred is steering them wrong?
Full read of the 6-28-2001 issue:
Edited by Johnincal, 25 January 2005 - 01:05 AM.