HTML5 local storage could track your surfing habits

By Mike Fischer on September 23, 2010, 5:58 PM
Web surfers generally applaud the changes coming down the pike with HTML5, but last week Wired reported on a potentially unpleasant privacy loophole on mobile phones involving the format's local storage, a feature originally designed to allow offline browsing and faster refreshing of common pages. A lawsuit has followed against Ringleader Digital, an online data collection and advertising firm, alleging that the company is using the feature to create "pseudo-cookies" that are stored locally and can track browsing history. They are not removable using standard cookie cleanup methods and are created by ads placed on the mobile versions of some high-traffic websites including CNN Money, The Travel Channel, and Merriam-Webster.

If you are concerned about the privacy violation, the local storage database will show up as "RLDGUID" and can typically be removed by going through your phone browser's settings and looking for HTML5 database storage. Despite the lawsuit, it appears that some sites are still actively creating the "cookie," although Ringleader Digital is offering an opt-out program on their website. The page must be visited from your mobile phone (presumably so the opt-out cookie can install itself) and will "be effective for the life of the device unless you install a new browser, or update your existing browser, in which case you will need to re-implement the opt out utility in order to maintain your opt out status." Sounds aggravating.

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