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{%hyde

title: "Protection against Tracking"
type: pattern
excerpt: "This pattern avoids the tracking of visitors of websites
via cookies. It does this by deleting them at regular intervals or
by disabling cookies completely."
categories: 
    - anonymity
    - unlinkability
    - tracking
    - cookies
    - minimize
    - exclude
status: draft
%}

[TOC]

Summary

This pattern avoids the tracking of visitors of websites via cookies. It does this by deleting them at regular intervals or by disabling cookies completely.

Context

This pattern is applicable when personal identifiable information is tracked through software tools, protocols or mechanisms such as cookies and the like.

Problem

With every single interaction in the web you leave footmarks and clues about yourself. Cookies for example enable webservers to gather information about web users which therefore affects their privacy and anonymity. Web service providers trace user behavior, which can lead to user profiling. Also providers can sell the gathered data about users visiting their pages to other companies.

Solution

Restricting usage of cookies on the client side by deleting cookies on a regular basis e.g. at every start-up of the operating system or enabling them case-by-case by deciding if the visited website is trustworthy or not and by accepting a cookie only for the current session. At the highest level of privacy protection cookies are disabled, but as a consequence web services are restricted. Another solution could be that cookies are exchanged between clients, so that sophisticated user profiles emerge.

Restricting a website to not be able to track any of the user's personal identifiable informations.

Consequences

With cookies disabled there is no access to sites that require enabled cookies for logging in. Other tracking mechanisms for user fingerprinting may still work even when cookies are disabled.

Examples

Alice wants to buy shoes and she wants to shop online. She heads to an online shop and searches for shoes but can’t decide which ones she wants, so she buys neither of them. The next day she finds a couple of emails in her inbox, giving her suggestions for other shoes and alerting her that the viewed shoes are now on sale.

[Known Uses]

Junkbuster is an old proxy filtering between web server and browser to block ads and cookies, but it is no longer maintained. A program named CookieCooker (http://www.cookiecooker.de/) provides protection for monitored user behaviour and interests by exchanging cookies with other users or using a random selection of identities. Unfortunately this project also seems to be not maintained anymore. There is also the Firefox Add-on Self-Destructing Cookies which deletes cookies of tabs as soon as they are closed.