This story broke yesterday talking about the NSA website placing files on our
computers to track what websites we visit. These are the notorious cookie files
the NSA are actually illegal.
NEW YORK - The National Security Agency's Internet site has been placing
files on visitors' computers that can track their Web surfing activity
despite strict federal rules banning most of them.
These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy
activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and
agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake.
Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency
already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program
in the United States.
"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly
a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for
Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But
it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they
are not even following the government's very basic rules for Web privacy."
Until Tuesday, the NSA site created two cookie files that do not expire
until 2035 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â likely beyond the life of any computer in use today.
Don Weber, an NSA spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday that the
cookie use resulted from a recent software upgrade. Normally, the site uses
temporary, permissible cookies that are automatically deleted when users
close their Web browsers, he said, but the software in use shipped with
persistent cookies already on.