If Google Can Track Your Online Activity, It’s a Safe Bet the NSA Can Too

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Photo: Charles Dharapak

It's not as dramatic as the NSA tracking you and your associates via cell tower, but the latest Snowden revelation may have an impact on a type of technology we use every day, mostly without realizing it. The Washington Post reports that the agency can take the "cookies" and location data used by Internet companies to track customers and use them to identify targets for further hacking. The NSA is particularly fond of Google PREF cookies, which it can obtain with an order from a FISA court (Google's role in the process is unclear). Companies have argued that the tracking is harmless and actually helps their customers, but the news may increase pressure to give users more control over how they're tracked online for commercial purposes. For those who enjoy the service, surely you'll still have the option to see creepy ads for products you just scoped out on another website.