What is a Supercookie?

The term cookies has been used in the tech world for years to describe little bits of code intended to keep settings and login information consistent each time you visit a server you frequent. In some cases, cookies are used to track your activity and send usage reports to the site owner, and several browser scripts and extensions have been created to keep untrusted or unrecognized cookies from being used on your system. In some cases, cookies have been associated with malicious activities intended to track someone’s browsing history and get an idea of their interests, budget, and other personal data.

What is a Supercookie?Recently, a new breed of cookie has appeared on the Web, and this one is practically invisible to the user. These new supercookies are being used by sites like Hulu and MSN to recreate their users’ profiles, even after the more traditional cookie has been deleted. This is made possible by a capability found in the Adobe Flash plug-in. Flash cookies aren’t stored or activated the same way traditional cookies are, and for this reason they’re harder to detect and get rid of. Most users don’t even know they exist.

Getting rid of them isn’t terribly difficult, but you have to know where to go. As it turns out, Adobe has a page set up for this very purpose, but you can also access it by clicking on a Flash object and selecting the Settings option. In this panel, you can choose to Delete all sites, which will remove all of the Flash cookies present on your system.

Supercookies may sound like some impressive technology that can tackle your system and make it beg for mercy. While it may certainly be a concern for the privacy-minded individual, this form of tracking is nothing new. Perhaps this is just another reason why we should be considering more non-Flash Web scripts?

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • Anonymous

    I got an iPa d 2 32-GB for $21.68 and my girlfriend loves her Pana sonic Lumiix GF 1 Camera that we got for $ 38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $ 657 which only cost me $ 62.81 . Here is the site we use to get it al from, http://to.ly/aXIi

  • Allan Shand

    Do I hear a flash boycott?

  • http://twitter.com/EnvoyOfTheEnd Ian Bunting

    It is certainly someting Adobe, and those utilising the technology should be more open about and should make more transparant.
    Afterall how many people would think of looking at flash when trying to remove tracking or other potentially identifying information.

  • http://twitter.com/timothyeric TiMOThY ERiC

    In truth, the improvements, as they are laid out here, are not worth the $$.  Looks like the biggest upgrade for me would be Siri.  However, Vlingo has been doing all and more of what Siri promises for well over a year now (on Android phones)… at any rate, they tout a huge update for iOS 5 this Fall and the app will probably run about $20 soaking wet.  Better that I stay with the 4…

  • Darren Persad

    Despite this, and even though Flash is slowly dying away, it might take longer than people expect to do so; look at the capabilities of Flash versus its main competitor, HTML5; Flash runs smoother, it’s more refined (less-bugs) and it is already a staple for many online/offline media applications that want to ensure engrossing multimedia experiences where as HTML5 is quiet nice, but it still perfecting what it can do. However, I wish that those who use Flashes iteration of cookies were more open about it. As Ian Bunting said (below me), many people may not appreciate a “secret” tracking method in their system or that they were never warned about it.

  • http://twitter.com/timothyeric TiMOThY ERiC

    agreed