World
Zombie Cookie: The Tracking Cookie That You Can't Kill
An online ad company called Turn is using tracking cookies that come back to life after Verizon users have deleted them. Turn's services are used by everyone from Google to Facebook
 
An online advertising clearinghouse relied on by Google, Yahoo and Facebook is using controversial cookies that come back from the dead to track the web surfing of Verizon customers.
 
The company, called Turn, is taking advantage of a hidden undeletable number that Verizon uses to monitor customers' habits on their smartphones and tablets. Turn uses the Verizon number to respawn tracking cookies that users have deleted.
 
 

Does Your Phone Company Track You?
 

 

 

 

Click from your smartphone or tablet (with Wi-Fi turned off) to see if your telecom provider is adding a tracking number. We don't save any information.
 

Al Shaw and Jonathan Stray, ProPublica

 
 
"We are trying to use the most persistent identifier that we can in order to do what we do," Max Ochoa, Turn's chief privacy officer, told ProPublica.
 
Turn's zombie cookie comes amid a controversy about a new form of tracking the telecom industry has deployed to shadow mobile phone users. Last year, Verizon and AT&T users noticed their carriers were inserting a tracking number into all the Web traffic that transmits from a users' phone – even if the user has tried to opt out.
 
Users complained that the tracking number could be used by any website they visited from their phone to build a dossier about their behavior – what sites they went to, what apps they used.
 
In November, AT&T stopped using the number. But Verizon did not, instead assuring users on its website that "it is unlikely that sites and ad entities will attempt to build customer profiles" using its identifiers.
 
When asked about Turn's use of the Verizon number to respawn tracking cookies, a Verizon spokeswoman said, "We're reviewing the information you shared and will evaluate and take appropriate measures to address."
 
Turn privacy officer Ochoa said that his company had conversations with Verizon about Turn's use of the Verizon tracking number and said "they were quite satisfied."
 
Turn's actions were spotted by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer, and confirmed by ProPublica's testing.
 
Turn and Verizon also have a separate marketing partnership that allows Verizon to share anonymized information about its mobile customers. In April, Verizon sponsored a Turn event in New York City called " Bringing Sexy Back to Measurement."
 
Turn, which calls itself a "Digital Hub," may not be a household name but it is a huge back-end processor of ads on websites.
 
It works like this: When a user visits a website that contains Turn tracking code, the company holds an auction within milliseconds for advertisers to target that user. The highest bidder's ad instantly appears on the user's screen as the web page loads. Turn says it receives 2 million requests for online advertising placements per second.
 
For its auctions to work, Turn needs to identify web users by cookies, which are small text files that are stored on their computers. The cookies allow Turn to identify a user's web browsing habits, such as an interest in sports or shopping, which it uses to lure advertisers to the auction.
Some users try to block such tracking by turning off or deleting cookies. But Turn says that when users clear their cookies, it does not consider that a signal that users want to opt out from being tracked.
 
"There are definitely people who feel that if they clear their cookies, they won't be tracked, and that is not strictly accurate," said Joshua Koran, senior vice president of product management at Turn.
 
Turn executives said the only way users can opt out is to install a Turn opt-out cookie on their machine. That cookie is not designed to prevent Turn from collecting data about a user - only to prevent Turn from showing targeted ads to that user.
 
ProPublica's tests showed that even Verizon users who installed the Turn opt-out cookie continued to receive the Turn tracking cookie as well. Turn said despite the appearance of the tracking cookie, it continues to honor the opt-out cookie.
 
Initially, Turn officials also told ProPublica that its zombie cookie had a benefit for users: They said they were using the Verizon number to keep track of people who installed the Turn opt-out cookie, so that if they mistakenly deleted it, Turn could continue to honor their decisions to opt out.
 
 
(Julia Angwin, Mike Tigas and Terry Parris Jr., ProPublica)
 
But when ProPublica tested that claim on the industry's opt-out system, we found that it did not show Verizon users as opted out. Turn subsequently contacted us to say it had fixed what it said was a glitch, but our tests did not show it had been fixed.
 
Either way, this fix does not address the respawning of cookies that have been deleted– since Turn says it does not consider that an expression of user intent.
 
"It is our absolute desire to honor people's choices," said Ochoa, Turn's chief privacy officer.
For more coverage, read ProPublica's previous reporting on Verizon's indestructible tracking and AT&T's decision to stop using the technique.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

User

How to tackle misleading advertisements

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs has started public forums seeking inputs from public on various consumer related issues, including action to be taken against misleading advertisement. Visit the forums and post your views, opinions on misleading advertisement

 

In what is possibly the first ever exercise by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to actually involve consumers to voice their opinions and suggestions, a public forum has been opened seeking inputs on various issues, including those related to actions against misleading advertisements. These forums were created in December 2014, and are open for public participation till 23 January 2015. Suggestions for steps that can be taken by state governments and police, voluntary consumer organisations as well as individual consumers in tackling misleading advertisements are being sought. Perhaps, another sign of changing tides in the political sphere, consumer feedback is being encouraged in policy formulation.
 
Misleading advertisements include exaggerated and overstated effects or attributes of a product without substantiating evidence, citing fake licenses or warranties and use of misleading graphics among other things. Many of the concerns and suggestions that have been raised in these forums include issues related to advertisements in the healthcare category (hospitals and medicines) and the need for a central authority that is responsible for monitoring advertisements in the media that is accessible to the public. 
 
This brings to light that there is little awareness amongst the common people regarding ASCI, the Advertising Standards Council of India, a self-regulatory organisation that regulates advertising content and provides guidelines and a code of conduct to be adhered to by all advertisements. It is accessible to all consumers as well as advertisers. Anyone can file a complaint with the ASCI against advertisements they find misleading, harmful or unethical. In 2007, the union government amended the Cable TV Network Rules' Advertising Code, according to which any advertisements that violate the ASCI code will not be permitted to be aired on television. ASCI have been very active in monitoring and taking prompt and strict action against advertisements that do not meet the prescribed codes and guidelines. In December 2014 alone, ASCI upheld 113 out of the 144 complaints registered. 
 
Some of the complaints upheld by the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) of the ASCI include those against advertisements for Good Knight (Godrej Consumer Products Ltd), which showed a child standing too close to the vaporising machine, Livon Hair Gain (Marico Ltd) that claims to stop hair fall within 90 days. Maruti Swift (Maruti Suzuki India Ltd), which shows the driver performing dangerous stunts, while a child is inside the car, several educational institutes that claim to offer 100% placements and many “miracle” drugs, tonics and treatments that boast of being able to cure ailments and diseases like cancer, infertility, diabetes and hair fall were also banned. The ASCI Code also dictates guidelines for use of results from 'independent research' to promote products, depiction of women and advertisements for discounts or sale offers in advertisements. 
 
A large number of the complaints filed under ASCI as well as in the above-mentioned public forums created by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs are related to advertisements in the healthcare category – these include concerns regarding aggressive marketing strategies employed by hospitals and other healthcare units and false claims made in advertisements for various drugs and cosmetic products. 
 
There are several legislations in place that deal with these issues – specifically, the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1955 and the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, both under the Department of Health and Family Welfare. However, considering the large number of misleading and even outrageous advertisements for “miracle” drugs and low cost treatments that one comes across, it is clear that there is a lot to be done to ensure implementation of these legislations. 
 
It is imperative that efforts are taken to keep in check the authenticity and the ethical standards of advertisements. Encouraging consumer participation is a step forward in this direction. Increasing awareness about organisations such as ASCI as well as relevant legislatures and stringent norms to ensure credibility of the claims made by advertisements are also important. 
 
Click to visit the forums opened by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs 
 
 
 
 
 

User

COMMENTS

KAIALSH SINGHAL

2 years ago

sir, first the celebrity who to be part of advertisement and without using such product , inducing others to use product to be penalised heavily and second the expenditure on advertisement to be disallowed and profit of that product to be transfered to consumer welfare schemes regards kc singhal

A few tips on safe driving to save the lives of your kith and kin!
However cautious the driver of our vehicle may be, the extraneous circumstances can cause freak accidents and we can be the victims of such unexpected happenings, if we do not follow safety measures like wearing seat belts even if we are seated on the back seat
 
Normally, when we drive on dual carriage ways (called as ‘divided highways’ in US and Canada), we tend to go a little faster. This is because we feel that there are no chances of head-on collision due to the existence of a median strip, which separates the opposing lanes of traffic, giving us a false sense of security. But even in dual carriage roads, accidents do happen and if we take a little extra care, many a life of our kith and kin can be saved. Here are two live examples of how accidents happen in a split second, and how you can minimize their impact on the human lives. 
 

First Accident:

My niece and nephew with their five year old son while proceeding by car from Bengaluru to Pondicherry recently met with an accident within half an hour of starting their journey in a dual carriage way called NICE Road. It was early morning and raining in Bengaluru and the potholes on the road were not visible due to water stagnation on such holes.  There was a steep pothole in the center of the road, which made the car jump and when he applied brakes, the car was completely skidded, toppled and landed upside down. (See picture)
 
When we heard that news, our immediate reaction was that something fatal would have happened and we were curious to know the extent of injury to the people inside the car due to the accident.
 
This is what happened to the occupants of the car. 
1. First the good news. The only boy child sitting alone on the back seat had a miraculous escape. He is completely safe and there are not even scratches in his body. 
 
2. The husband driving the car had fractured his right hand, which required medical care. But for the fracture in his right hand, he had no other injuries and he was alright in all other respects. 
 
3. His wife was sitting on the passenger seat by the side of the driver which is supposed to be the most risky seat in a motor car. She, however, fractured her left hand and it was found that she had two fractures and required immediate surgery to fix the fractured bones. 
 
As stated above, fortunately both the occupants of the front seats including the driver survived with minimum injury and most surprisingly the child on the back seat was totally safe and was not injured at all. This miracle, if I may say so, happened because of the following safety precautions taken by the family while starting their journey.
 
1. Both the husband (driver) and wife, who were in their early thirties, took care to ensure that they had worn their seat belts properly, knowing fully well that sitting in the front seat is always more risky particularly while driving on the highways for long distances. 
 
2. The car they were travelling had air bags on both the front seats and they had ensured that they were ‘on’ before starting their journey. I understand that there are ON-OFF switches for air bags in some cars and in this case the switch was on at all times. When the car met with the accident, the air bags opened up automatically and that prevented those seated in the front seat from banging their head to the dash board of the car. 
 
3. The most admirable thing was that they had ensured that the child was seated on the back seat and was securely tied with the seat belt, which was properly buckled. This thoughtful action on the part of the parents virtually saved their child who had no scratches at all on his body. 
 

Second Accident:

Here is another freak accident that took place recently when a friend of mine and his wife were travelling in a cab on the outskirts of Bengaluru. They were sitting on the back seat when suddenly the driver applied brakes to stop the car as the vehicle in front of them had stopped abruptly due to some obstruction on the road ahead. Though the car in which my friends were travelling had safely come to a halt, they were suddenly hit by a speeding car from behind, which resulted in all the three cars hitting each other and the one in the middle occupied by our friend got hit from both ends. The lady seated on the back of the driver’s seat met with severe injuries to her face, as she banged against the driver’s seat in front of her which was decorated with glass beads hanging behind the head-rest of the driver. The lady’s face was badly disfigured due to the force with which she hit the seat in front which had those glass beads.  Her husband sitting beside her, had leg injuries though it was not that severe.
 
Both of them had not worn the seat belts, though they were available on the back seat as well. If they had worn the seat belts, the extent of injury could have been possibility much less. 
 

Lessons to learn from these two accidents:

In our country, it is mandatory only for the driver to wear seat belts by law and others are not bound to wear seat belts. The first lesson to learn from these two accidents is that all passengers sitting in the car must invariably wear seat belts irrespective of the seats occupied by them. There is a tendency not to wear seat belts by those sitting on the back seat, without knowing the risks involved. It is abundantly clear from the above accidents that however cautious the driver of the car may be, the extraneous circumstances can cause freak accidents and we can be the victims of such unexpected happenings, if we do not care to wear seat belts even if we are seated on the back seat. 
 
The second and important lesson to learn is that we must ensure that children should also be made to wear seat belts whether they sit independently or on special seats provided to them. Generally, out of love and affection for our children, we tend to leave them free while travelling, and hardly care to ensure that they are properly secured by seat belts. More often than not, children of that age tend to sit on the mother’s lap without wearing seat belts, which could prove fatal both for the mother and the child. The golden rule is “Always remember to buckle up – every time – whenever and wherever you are seated in a car.
 
It is not compulsory in our country for cars to be fitted with air bags, though most of the cars today have air bags fitted as original equipments. Though cars with air bags may cost a bit more, it is always advisable to go for cars fitted with air bags as they provide additional safety. 
 
The existence of ON-OFF switch for air bags is hardly made known to us while buying a new car. If you are buying a car with air bags, please understand the operations of ON-OFF switch fitted inside the car and ensure that it is always put on specially when going on a long trip. 
 
The website of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the US Dept of Transportation gives detailed guidelines on the use of seat belts and air bags with graphic designs of how to use the seat belts for children and with regard to on-off switches on air bags, which are both informative and useful for car users. 
 
It concludes with the following words of wisdom: “Will following these safety tips guarantee that I will be safe in a crash? There is no guarantee of safety in a crash, with or without air bag. However, most of the people killed would not have been seriously injured if they had followed these safety tips.”
 
Do therefore visit:  http://www.safercar.gov/Air+Bags  and go through the Informational Brochure: Air Bags and On-Off Switches
 
This site offers important information to help you stay safe in a vehicle with seat belts and air bags.
 
(The author is a banking analyst and he writes for Moneylife under a pen name ‘Gurpur’)
 

User

COMMENTS

Anand Honnatti

2 years ago

I could not agree more. Last year on a highway, another car rear ended my car as I had to slow down due to vehicle in front slowing down. My mother seated backside escaped unhurt as she was wearing seat belt. Damage to car was significant but we were happy that no one was hurt.

I always insist everyone buckle up, else wont move forward :)

Bapoo Malcolm

2 years ago

Now how did that happen? Sent one message,got two postings!

Type once, get two! .......... a new scheme?

Bapoo Malcolm

2 years ago

Could not be truer. Helmets, seat belts are not bells and whistles. They mean the difference between life and death.

The choice is yours.

Bapoo M. Malcolm

Bapoo Malcolm

2 years ago

Could not be truer. Helmets, seat belts are not bells and whistles. They mean the difference between life and death.

The choice is yours.

Bapoo M. Malcolm

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