Monday, October 11, 2010

The Fifth Dimension

Web developers have been expressing their excitement about HTML 5 for a while now and the possibility of creating interactive content easily without proprietary programs like Flash. Now the New York Times warns that this "New Web Code Draws Concern Over Privacy Risks" in a story that is now among its most e-mailed.

Most Web users are familiar with so-called cookies, which make it possible, for example, to log on to Web sites without having to retype user names and passwords, or to keep track of items placed in virtual shopping carts before they are bought.

The new Web language and its additional features present more tracking opportunities because the technology uses a process in which large amounts of data can be collected and stored on the user’s hard drive while online. Because of that process, advertisers and others could, experts say, see weeks or even months of personal data. That could include a user’s location, time zone, photographs, text from blogs, shopping cart contents, e-mails and a history of the Web pages visited.

The new Web language “gives trackers one more bucket to put tracking information into,” said Hakon Wium Lie, the chief technology officer at Opera, a browser company.

Or as Pam Dixon, the executive director of the World Privacy Forum in California, said: “HTML 5 opens Pandora’s box of tracking in the Internet.

It explains that the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C is conducting workshops on the issue, but offers little substantive on the policy front. Instead much of the story was devoted to "Everycookie" creator Samy Kamkar rather than to the complexities of technical specifications and the group deliberations of the W3C. Again, the lone hacker seems to make a better story.

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