The Alabama Moderate

Painting the Red State Purple.

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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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4 Responses to “Glenn Beck has never heard of cookies or EULA statements?”

  1. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican I really cannot understand how people can actually take this Hack seriously. It completely amazes me.

  2. Lando said

    “Glenn Beck has never heard of cookies or EULA statemets?” (sic…’statements’)

    MAN! “Coldwarning’… you couldn’t had said it much better.

    Well MODERATE… do YOU have a clue about what a cookie or EULA is about?
    Webopedia:
    “Short for End-User License Agreement, the type of license used for most software. An EULA is a legal contract between the manufacturer and/or the author and the end user of an application.”

    Do you see ANY words in their EULA that state they are referring to a computer program?

    NO!

    They are talking about your ENTIRE COMPUTER SYSTEM!

    Do you have any computer experience? “When logged into the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the US government.”….. Where do cookies fit into this? Absolutely no where.

    Ohhh.. maybe that’s the reason they took that EULA down and put up a more… ummm.. ‘Constitutionally-acceptable’ one?

    Your arrogant, ignorant attitude would be funny if it wasn’t so disconcerting. My only concern is that someone might actually take you seriously.

    CISSP, Security+, C|EH, CSCS, MCP
    Still wanna argue with me?

  3. Adam said

    OH, Let me 🙂
    (Network Admin)

    A cookie is a file (text file) put on to your computer from just about any websites that you visit. These cookies contain either username and/or passwords, your search history, profile information, shopping cart information, or other data that is used by the website.

    Now for the http://www.cars.gov/ website (go there check it out, I won’t tell anyone that you looked at it) there is a privacy police at the bottom of the page http://www.dot.gov/privacy.html that links you to the dot.gov website on privacy policy, NOT an EULA. The End User License Agreement that you think your flustered about is for the website that Car Dealerships access not the everyday consumer. Now as you know Car Dealerships are business and when they access the website they are logging into a database (see software) which has EULA agreement with it, which is to be expected. The EULA is to protect Dealers and Government from data miners and hackers. So please actually look at these sites and such before you decide to throw an IT hissy fit.

    Oh and if you must know I’m a network admin for over 6 years + 5 years of tech support for internet service provider. So I think I know a thing or two about software, hardware, EULA, and how a website and cookies work.

  4. ALmod said

    Wow, Lando. All those big and shiny certifications and you happen to have no clue as to the standard EULA, cookie, and/or privacy statement. Apparently, you also don’t have the ability to read.

    Actually, I worked as an IT for several years before leaving the industry to start a family– with a network administrator with about 11 years experience and a hobby of building computers. So yes, I want to argue with you. Particularly, I’d like to argue about your failure to read.

    First, I didn’t state that the information on the cars website was a EULA. I called it a “Privacy Policy”, and if you look at the video above, so does the website. I did however COMPARE it to a EULA (which is for a program) and state that a cookie is one way to track information on visitors. And cookies are also mentioned in the video above.

    Now, being the big bad computer genius that I’m sure you are (or at least you say you are), you might also be familiar with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They police REAL privacy issues online, and they had no issues with this. In fact, if you’ll look at the link above, you can actually see the exact quote for them. They also weighed in on the constitutionality of the worst case scenario Beck and his little tart friend were discussing. (Here’s a hint: It’s not possible.)

    In fact, the site mentioned above (and as I noted in my latest edit), isn’t even for CONSUMERS, Mr. Big Bad Certified IT. (But I’m sure you knew that one already, cause you’re so smart.) It’s for DEALERS, and it’s there for the purpose of keeping the government site secure. Basically, all it’s saying is that they can track what you’re doing as you’re logged in, and should they find that you are compromising a system that contains the private and personal information of many, many people (like a Chinese hacker), they can forward the information about your computer to a third party government agency, either foreign (the Chinese government) or domestic (the FBI, the police). Now, considering the amount of information that can be gotten from such a database, such security measures are STANDARD in the industry– not only for government but for corporate sites as well. (But again, I’m sure you know that.)

    By the way, thank you for the spelling correction. I didn’t catch it the first time. I will correct it. (And spelling/grammar are kind of a last ditch for people who have no other real argument.)

    Now go put your tin foil hat back on and take your attitude elsewhere.

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