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Is There A Legitimate Use Of Spyware?

Jan 20, 2008
One of the confusing concepts about Spyware is use of hidden cookies by otherwise honest companies. How does this affect us and what is the harm to our computer and to us? Our Internet provider uses Spyware, a cookie, which is a small piece of computer language, used for identification and sometimes tracking information. The cookie identifies our computer as one of the company's clients. This type of cookie has a legitimate use and Internet providers usually inform subscribers of their use of cookies. However, those Internet Providers who use cookies to track our use of the internet are using cookies as Spyware. The practice of dropping cookies into our computer without our knowledge or permission is also use of Spyware. Many people using computers everyday have no idea their Internet Provider may be tracking their use of the computer.

Why is this called Spyware? It is Spyware because it is an information gathering cookie and we do not know when this cookie is gathering information or exactly what information it gathers. This is also a risk in some situations because a third party can steal the cookie, which contains personal information.

Those people, who do their banking and bill payments online, also have cookies in their computer serving as a means of identification. The cookies placed in your computer by your bank is a guarantee of your security before, during and after an online transaction. What happens if your anti-spyware software deletes such a cookies? Nothing happens, other than a third party cannot steal it.

When you go to a website and order something online on a secure website, the website will drop a cookie in your system at some point in the transaction. The purpose is partly for security reasons, but it is also a means, by which the company will do online marketing from the information they gather without your consent or knowledge. Although such Spyware may be benign and will not damage your computer, it is technically Spyware.

Think about the number of times a website, on which you sign up for something or purchase something has a statement of commitment. It states something like, "We will not sell or share your personal information to anyone for any reason." This makes us feel secure about leaving our email address or other information on the site. If we read the entire statement however, we will also read, they will share the information with their partners. This is a disclosure statement, which legalizes their sharing your information but the statement does not tell us the information passes from their partners to hundreds of others with whom we have no relationship. The problem lies in the fact we have no idea who their partners are and we have no control over the number of companies and individuals who will have access to our information. One hint is the volume of Spam and Junk email, which appears in our email program after we purchase something online or visit a variety of websites.
About the Author
Andres Berger recommends Firefox. Get it now and take some lessons on information security for free.
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