Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Many anti-spyware programs repeatedly report cookie or tracking cookie issues. Are those spyware? Maybe. Maybe not. Some thoughts on what to do.
Why, when I run my anti-spyware programs, do I get the same results week after week? It's always the same tracking cookies and I quarantine them but they never go away. Why bother running these programs if they only find the same junk over and over?
The short answer is because you probably visit the same web sites regularly, and they put those cookies back the next time you visit. Run your anti-spyware program again, and it sees that they've returned, and dutifully reports them.
Some cookies can be identified as "tracking" cookies - cookies that could be used to track your movement around the internet. Personally my reaction is "So?", but some people do care.
But you raise a good point. All these reports are so much noise to many people, and get in the way of real issues when they pop up.
Whether or not cookies are truly spyware is up for debate. Cookies can be used to provide you with useful functionality like remembering who you are when you visit a web site so you don't have to login each time, or so you don't have to re-type all of your personal information each time you fill out a sales form.
Cookies can also be used to track your movements on the internet. The most common case is cookies called "third party" cookies - cookies placed by advertisers on various web sites. But to quote my previous article How do I delete cookies? And just what are cookies, anyway?: "Now before the paranoia kicks in, let's be clear about something - they don't care about you specifically. Sorry, but you're just not that important."
Tracking cookies generate a tremendous volume of information that is processed in aggregate ... meaning that advertisers using them can determine things like "this many people who visit site A also go to site B, so we should beef up our advertising purchase for site B." They're not saying "Oh, look, Leo just visited site A again. And there he goes to site B.". You and I as individuals just aren't that interesting. Analyzed as a group, however, the information can provide interesting trends and information.
The paranoia has a basis in fact, however, since even though it's more work than it's worth, cookies could be used to trace my individual visits across various web sites.
So, does that make it spyware?
I guess so, but as I said earlier, I really don't care.
So there are various options:
Many anti-spyware programs have the option to control what they report on. You might be able to turn off reporting of cookie related issues. This is what I elect to do.
You'll note that not running an anti-spyware program was not an option.
The fact is that there are many other more serious issues than cookies that anti-spyware programs do catch and resolve. Things you and I would care about. If you're even a semi-savvy computer user they're infrequent but they can happen. You want that anti-spyware program to be there to catch 'em.
And as always, make sure that your anti-spyware program, like your anti-virus program, is getting regular updates to it's database of malware. That way you're sure to catch the new and latest threats as soon as possible.
Comments on this entry are closed.
If you have a question, start by using the search box up at the top of the page - there's a very good chance that your question has already been answered on Ask Leo!.
If you don't find your answer, head out to http://askleo.com/ask to ask your question.