Fri, 01 Sep 2000 08:05:16 -0400
MS WORD ALLOWS INTERNET TRACKING COOKIES
by Dave Murphy, firstname.lastname@example.org
Microsoft Word 97/2000 allows graphic images in
documents, big deal -- this is old news. And many users also
know how to insert hyperlinks into documents, ho hum.
But here's a new twist. Word users can also insert a graphic
image into a document that's not part of the document but a
link to the source graphic on a website (somewhere out on
I never gave it much thought -- the bandwidth most users
have on their local area networks exceeds their Internet
bandwidth, so why not copy the graphic (assuming there's
not copyright infringement) down to the network server and
link the graphic locally. Sounds pretty neat, until I got
thinking about the possibilities after reading a couple of
news reports on this subject last night and this morning.
Since a graphic file request made to a webserver would
generate an access log entry, the webmaster of the hosting
site would be able to tell from which IP address the
document's graphic image has been requested. And it's a
pretty simple matter to figure out where an IP address
originates. Basically, the webmaster can tell which
organization is reading the document.
I don't want some unknown webmaster tracking which
documents I'm reading. It's none of his (or her) business.
And since the graphic image could be just a 1x1 pixel,
transparent or white image, I may not even notice that the
image is part of the document.
Imagine the possibilities. Authors can insert tiny graphic
images linked back to their webserver and so they can track
who's reading their documents (has an loose-lipped employee
slipped the 10-year business plan to a competitor?).
And the hyperlinked graphic can also be used to generate a
cookie entry on the readers' computer.
I love technology, but I'm not too sure about all this
busting stuff. I need some time to think it over and talk it
through. I'm off to Florida to present a Train the Trainer
seminar, and my family and I will work in a week's vacation,
too. I'll run this privacy stuff past my Dad while we're
No matter how old we are, some how everything becomes
when we talk it over with our parents.
See you in a bit over a week.
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