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Most computer users believe that setting their browsers to not accept cookies will prevent websites from downloading these bits of tracking code to their hard drives. But that isn’t necessarily true. Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported on a new breed of cookies, called “supercookies” that are downloaded to a different portion of users’ hard drives than traditional cookies are. Browser “no-cookie” settings won’t prevent them from being stored there, and removing them is a cumbersome and repetitive process.
When in-car safety and concierge service OnStar announced its revised terms and conditions–which allowed the company to keep open its two-way cellular connection even after a subscriber cancelled the service, and to share or sell in-car data such as seat belt use and vehicle location and speed–the new language created widespread controversy. Current OnStar subscribers, privacy advocates and legislators including Democratic senators Chuck Schumer (NY) and Al Franken (MN) quickly and loudly denounced the new policies, which yesterday led to OnStar announcing it had reversed course.
The press and public reaction to many high profile hacks–think Sony, or the Pentagon–is that the breaches are embarrassments at best or setbacks at worst. But hacks can have grievous real-world consequences for companies, as Dutch certificate authority DigiNotar proved this week when it filed for bankruptcy after finding itself unable to recover from the consequences of a massive hack it suffered this summer.