The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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Archive for August 8th, 2009

Glenn Beck has never heard of cookies or EULA statements?

Posted by ALmod on August 8, 2009

Here’s a clip I found amusing:

The line Beck is so worked up about is basically an agreement for the owner of the program/site (in this case, that would be the U.S. government) to monitor you while you use it.  There are a number of reasons for this and a number of ways to do it, but it’s done by virtually every site out there– including this one and Fox New’s own website.

Now before you accuse me of doing something dreadfully horrible, hear me out.  Most sites install what is called a “cookie” on your system for various reasons.  Perhaps you want to stay logged into that site when you return to it the next day.  The cookie keeps that information so that it’s possible to do that.  It also helps keep track of other personalized site features.  For me and other bloggers, it gives us nonpersonal information like the amount of site traffic we’ve had and where that traffic was referred from.  I’m not exactly getting your bank account information or name or home address.  But I can tell you what Google search words sent you here.  I can also tell things like what type of browser you were using.  That helps me to improve my site and get more traffic.

It also helps sites that are supported through advertisements to better assess which ads to place and so forth.  Government sites want to make sure that you’re not doing anything illegal with their site– like creatively modifying it to send out a virus or datamining it for the personal information of other people who have used it.

This is nothing new.  In fact, it’s been going on for years.  If you own a computer, chances are that you’ve already agreed to these terms with Microsoft (or whoever else owns the operating system you’re using) and the owners of any other software you have.  Back when the RIAA was first freaking out about pirating, it became increasingly popular to monitor and make sure you weren’t using any stolen software.  And yes, the process would have allowed them to see other things as well.  In fact, the first thing I thought of when I saw the agreement that Beck is ranting on was the End User Liscence Agreement (EULA) that I have to agree to everytime Blizzard releases a new patch for World of Warcraft.

Check out #17, in particular:

“A. WHEN RUNNING, THE GAME MAY MONITOR YOUR COMPUTER’S RANDOM ACCESS MEMORY (RAM) AND/OR CPU PROCESSES FOR UNAUTHORIZED THIRD PARTY PROGRAMS RUNNING CONCURRENTLY WITH WORLD OF WARCRAFT…

B. WHEN THE GAME IS RUNNING, BLIZZARD MAY OBTAIN CERTAIN IDENTIFICATION INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR COMPUTER AND ITS OPERATING SYSTEM, INCLUDING WITHOUT LIMITATION YOUR HARD DRIVES, CENTRAL PROCESSING UNIT, IP ADDRESS(ES) AND OPERATING SYSTEM(S), FOR PURPOSES OF IMPROVING THE GAME AND/OR THE SERVICE, AND TO POLICE AND ENFORCE THE PROVISIONS OF THIS AGREEMENT AND THE EULA.

C. Blizzard may, with or without notice to you, disclose your Internet Protocol (IP) address(es), personal information, Chat logs, and other information about you and your activities: (a) in response to a request by law enforcement, a court order or other legal process; or (b) if Blizzard believes that doing so may protect your safety or the safety of others.

D. BLIZZARD MAY MONITOR, RECORD, REVIEW, MODIFY AND/OR DISCLOSE YOUR CHAT SESSIONS, WHETHER VOICE OR TEXT, WITHOUT NOTICE TO YOU, AND YOU HEREBY CONSENT TO SUCH MONITORING, RECORDING, REVIEW, MODIFICATION AND/OR DISCLOSURE. Additionally, you acknowledge that Blizzard is under no obligation to monitor Chat, and you engage in Chat at your own risk.”

And be sure to check out the Fox News website’s Privacy Policy to read all about how they collect and use your Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”).  In my humble opinion, they actually do a fairly good job of clarifying and simplifying everything– much better than the website that Beck is harping on.  But it’s still pretty much the same thing.  In fact, just for fun, pull out some software manuals (if you kept any of them) and start reading the privacy policy.  Even my web browser collects a certain amount of information.

And if you use satelite or cable television?  Well, that’s being monitored, too.  For similar purposes.  Ain’t “privacy” grand?

EDIT: After taking another look at the video, I realized that the highlighted exceprt Beck is going on about is specifically targeted at hackers who might be using the site to “mine” personal data.  Considering that this is a government site that asks people to log in with personal information, it could potentially be a dream come true for those with nefarious purposes.  And so, it would make sense for them to monitor the use of the site.  If they noticed anything suspicious, they could notify a third party government authority (foreign or domestic) should they suspect an attack of that nature.  Now, being a video gamer, I probably see it a lot more than some people because it’s very prominent in the video game industry.  But the Chinese industry for this sort of thing is HUGE.

EDIT: FactCheck.org has weighed in, and they actually caught something I didn’t.  The site in question is for dealers and not every day citizens/car buyers, as Beck seems to be implying.  (And he did imply well, as I thought he was referring to a site for participating consumers and not dealers.)  Regardless, the assessment is the same — nothing nefarious or unusual is going on here, and these two are overreacting.  In fact, the EFF says pretty much the same thing I said, which is that the language is meant to alert the user that the site is working to keep personal information secure.

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Posted in Corporate Craziness, Entertainment, Federal Government, Laugh It Off, Mainstream Media, Republicans, Video Games | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »