Cookies — files stored by web browsers that allow for tracking and targeted advertising — have become an inherent part of the internet today. Many people find them harmless and those that don’t can typically erase cookies as they see fit. But today’s web-connected smartphones are being targeted by a much more sophisticated — some would say sneaky — kind of cookie that, even when deleted, continues to track its targeted user. These new un-killable “zombie” cookies have many up in arms over concerns about the privacy of smartphone data. A lawsuit has been filed against Ringleader Digital Inc., the company who runs the sly mobile mobile tracking system as well as a number of sites that utilize Ringleader’s technology.
As recently reported on Technology Review,
Ringleader designed a pseudo-cookie analytic system called Media Stamp.
Deleting the cookies doesn’t help, nor does going into Safari’s stored databases and deleting the Ringleader database, RLDGUID.
Ringleader would simply fetch the unique ID it stored for an individual’s phone and start tracking all over again. The folks at Ars Technica tried using Ringleader’s opt-out service, but the RLDGUID database just reappeared. Apparently, the company needs to keep track of your phone’s unique ID forever, so it knows to opt-you out of its ads.
Of particular concern is the sensitivity of much of the data typically associated with smartphones, including banking and financial apps, contact lists, and GPS location.