In today’s Journal, Mossberg argues that third party cookies, small text files often used to identify a computer, are spyware:
Some tracking-cookie purveyors say their cookies aren’t really spyware because they aren’t full-fledged programs and they aren’t as outrageous as spyware programs like “key loggers,” which record and report every keystroke you enter. Others argue that the companies don’t collect personally identifiable data, only aggregate data from many users. To me, tracking cookies clearly meet the obvious definition of spyware.
Rather than trying to legitimize tracking cookies with pressure and marketing campaigns, I suggest that, if they really believe tracking cookies are legitimate, the companies that use them simply go straight. They should ask a user’s permission to install the cookies, pointing out whatever user benefits they believe the cookies provide. They might even offer users compensation for allowing tracking cookies on their machines.
Until that happens, here is my advice: If you don’t like the idea of tracking cookies, run an antispyware program that detects and removes them, along with all the other indefensible computer code some companies think they have the right to install. After all, it is your computer.