Cookie woes, yet again

More and more often, on my phone and on my computer, while looking something up on the internet, I get told that I have to ‘make a choice about cookies’.

For those who don’t know, don’t care, or just can’t remember – a cookie is a teeny tiny text file that is stored on your device by somebody else, so they can watch where you go and build a detailed profile of you and your activities.
This profile is then used for many, many purposes, ranging from targeted advertising to political electioneering.  (Yes, the data collected is used to personally target election promises at you!)

I’ve complained about cookies before, many times, and things have changed a little – there are now laws about them.  It is no longer legal for websites to just put them on your system, they have to have your permission to do so.


Yeah… This post is complaining about the way they do that.

A common method is the pop-over.  You arrive at the webpage you want to look at, and just as you start to read, the entire window is darkened, and a new window comes on top of it, asking you to click on ‘accept’ before you continue.

If you simply click, you give them permission to store dozens of cookies on your system – and not just them, you also just agreed that anybody can store a cookie on your system.  Yep, you just agreed that the Nazi party can store the location of the missing gold bullion on your computer, making you an accessory to war crimes… But not to worry, at least you can read about the Cardassians now.

The interesting thing is if when you actually refuse to ‘accept’ the cookies.  You are always given a way to refuse them – although refusing the cookies usually means you are refused entry to the site – so take a look at it sometime.
A common outcome is that you are allowed to choose which cookies to allow.  You have the option of refusing targeted ad cookies, sometimes you can refuse what are known as ‘analytics’ cookies, but always, always, you are told that you cannot refuse ‘required’ cookies.

The last time I looked at what was ‘required’, I was amused to note that the major ad targeting and analytics firms had their cookies listed in the ‘required’ category.  So you think you are refusing to allow them, but you are really giving them permission to do what they want.

And here is the really annoying bit.  There is no way, at all, ever, of not getting any cookies on your system.  If you fill in their pop-up, and tell them that you refuse cookies…

They put a cookie on your system to record the fact that you refuse to give them permission to put a cookie on your system!

If, like me, you have your system set up to reject all third party cookies, then you will be asked every time you visit website ‘x’ you will be asked if they can store cookies on your system.  NO MATTER what answer you give, they will try to store a cookie, find out that they can’t, and complain about how their website will not work as intended.

To which I say ‘good!’  Because the way their website is ‘intended’ to work includes getting as much data about me as it can, and selling it.  Analytics cookies are supposedly there so they can improve the site – by which they mean find out which pages are most popular so they can charge more for the adverts on them.

It’s third party cookies that are the problem, almost universally.  You visit, for instance, your banks website.  If you log in to check your balance, then the website will make use of a cookie to record the fact that you are an ‘authorised’ visitor.  This is good.  But they will also try to put a cookie on your system from Google.  Google is not the owners of the website you are visiting, but are a ‘third party’ to the transaction, with you and your bank being the first two parties.

Once Google have the cookie on your system, then every time you visit any website that utilises Google services this cookie is used to record the visit, in detail.

Once Google have their cookie on your system, everything you do on the internet is recorded!

(Although Google are pretty much the largest, there are many other companies out there doing the same thing – I’m not picking on Google, I’m just using them as they are the most well-known.)

All I want to know is: why is it so hard for us to have the privacy we deserve?
Every time a law is passed to give us this privacy, businessmen find a way around it, and never once stop to think that that is the reason the law was made in the first place!

Rant over.

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Been playing about with my camera again today.

I emptied the bathroom of shower stools and chairs, and then spent the best part of an hour messing about with a old length of chrome plated rail, clamps, tripods, and assorted electronic gear.  (The rail is the sort you would find in a flat-pack wardrobe for hanging coathanger from.)

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Well, you DID ask for it…

I’ve mentioned going back to photography in previous posts.  Obviously, you don’t just buy a camera – you buy odds and ends, too.
After the great deal I got from the camera shop, I make a point of going in there first, to see what they can do – and Darren refuses to take money off me.  That’s right.  I go in to spend money, and he talks me out of it, usually telling me how I can do what I want for nothing.    Now that’s service.

Anyway.  I recently bought a flash extension cable online.   I wanted to put the flashgun to the side of a subject, so the cable would allow me to place the flashgun several feet away from the camera.  (It didn’t work, so I ended up using the method Darren told me to use when he refused to sell me the cable…)

But that’s not the point of the post.

I ordered the cable.  It arrived.  It was pretty much what I expected it to be.  No complaints, but nothing special about it.
Until today.

Today, I got an email from the vendor.  They were keen to let me know how much they appreciated my custom, and – if I was happy – would I leave a review.  A five-star review…

Well.  I thought about it.  And I thought about it some more.  And then I left a review.

My review was honest, and even generous.  But I don’t think they’ll like it.

I’ve told you before – you want five stars from me, I want the goods gold-plated, hand-delivered, and you pay me to take them.
Five stars is reserved for service so good, you’d happily pay ten times as much for it.

I gave them a generous three stars.  And my review stated exactly why I was writing the review, and why I was giving three stars, and exactly how good the product was – which was average.

An intelligent person reading my review would A) accept it as honest, fair, and unbiased, and B) think twice about dealing with a company that pestered you for a review.

They asked for a review – they got one.

Maybe they’ll think twice before asking again…

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Watch the birdie

I spoke a little about cameras towards the end of last year – and how a camera that did everything for you cost so much less than one that you had control over.
Well, after much consideration I bought a new camera.  I’m loving it – though I have to hide my blush when I admit that I’m letting the camera make all the decisions for me…

At the same time I bought the camera, I put up a bird table in the garden, so I would have a ready source of subject matter.  I can stand in the kitchen and watch the food disappear, and I’m having a lot of fun doing so.

There is a problem, however.  And it’s a big one.

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