New types of cookies raise online privacy concerns

The advertising industry has led the drive for new, persistent and powerful cookies, with privacy-invasive features for marketing practices and profiling.

The EU cyber security Agency ENISA advocates that both the user browser and the origin server must assist informed consent, and that users should be able to easily manage their cookies.

A new ENISA paper identifies and analyzes cookies in terms of security vulnerabilities and the relevant privacy concerns.

The new type of cookies support user-identification in a persistent manner and do not have enough transparency of how they are being used. Therefore, their security and privacy implications are not easily quantifiable. To mitigate the privacy implications, the Agency recommends, among other things, that:

  • Informed consent should guide the design of systems using cookies, the use of cookies and the data stored in cookies should be transparent for users.
  • Users should be able to easily manage cookies: in particular new cookie types. As such, all cookies should have user-friendly removal mechanisms which are easy to understand and use by any user.
  • Storage of cookies outside browser control should be limited or prohibited.
  • Users should be provided with another service channel if they do not accept cookies.

The Executive Director of ENISA, Prof. Udo Helmbrecht underlines: “Much work is needed to make these next-generation cookies as transparent and user-controlled as regular HTTP cookies, to safeguard the privacy and security aspects of consumers and business alike.”

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