Thursday, October 6, 2011

Google and Third Party Cookies

A few web pages I've tried to visit are refusing to load these days. One such is Google's account settings page. The others also seem to touch Google account-related services, eg viewing someone else's public calendar. When I hit such pages, Google courteously offers to help me correct my browser config by enabling 3rd party cookies.

How ... helpful.

Here's the thing: I disable third party cookies quite deliberately, and want them disabled.

Third party cookies are, to me, an invasion of privacy.  With a third party cookie, some schmuck who buys an ad placement in a site I visit can set a cookie in my browser tagged with the advertisers domain.  Then when they buy another ad presented in another site I visit, they can set another cookie. Since both cookies are 'owned' by the advertiser, they can then track my browsing history, at least to the extent of the subset of my browsing where their ads are presented.

I don't want third parties, especially any schmuck who can buy a few ads, to know my browsing history. For an example why, check out the ACLU Pizza Dramatization.

So now I'm kinda stuck if I want to tweak any of my Google account settings. I can't just clear my last hour of browsing history, because my work style means I currently have about 10 browser windows and 40 or 50 tabs open right now, some half of which I've touched in the past 20 minutes. I suppose I could keep a secondary browser on my machine just for pages such as these, set that browser with a relaxed security profile, and clear its cookies after each use.  Seems a pain.

And I can't figure why Google would want third party cookies on their account settings page anyway. I suppose they may have some number of internal domains, but it seems to me as if they are not being careful of their cross-domain cookies.

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