Wednesday, December 11, 2013

NSA uses Google PREF cookies to track targets

Latest Edward Snowden revelation shows that Google’s cookies are used to determine if target’s worthiness for future surveillance.

Google’s obsession with knowing everything about its customers has once again assisted the National Security Agency in its tracking efforts, according to a report by the Washington Post.

According the Post’s report, based on leaked documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA uses Google’s PREF cookies — which are used to serve users advertising — to assist in picking out targets that might warrant further surveillance.

The PREF cookie gets loaded on to a user’s computer when they use any of Google’s products from Gmail to Maps and even search. Google says these cookies allow it to serve up personalized ads to consumers, which makes its AdWords service more effective.

These cookies themselves don’t contain personal information, but can be used to uniquely identity a browser.

Tracking cookies like this have earned Google and other internet companies scorn from privacy advocates, and have inspired most browser makers, including Google with Chrome, to include a “do not track” or “private” browsing function.

For its part, Google has declined to comment to the Washington Post or other media that has made inquiries with the company. It’s not clear if Google is voluntarily cooperating with the NSA, or if its being compelled to under a gag order.

In the end this is another example of Google’s obsession with harvesting its customer’s data gone awry and enabling government surveillance. Google is ingrained into most user’s lives, we rely on it to power their smartphone, email, productivity, and maps. In exchange for the free services we give it a plethora of information. Without this grand bargain — personal data for free service — there would be much less for PRISM to hoover up.

Source: Washington Post

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