Recently, however, it has come to light that some third party advertising networks that work with advertisers and publishers have been using a new type of cookie called “Flash cookies,” or “Flash Local Shared Objects,” a harder-to-delete version of the traditional cookie. Flash cookies are a part of Adobe’s Flash player, a popular program loaded on a high percentage of the computers connected to the Internet. Like standard cookies, Flash cookies can be used to track consumer behavior and store information about consumers, including user preferences and credentials. Unlike standard cookies, Flash cookies are not deleted when the user uses regular browser functions to delete standard cookies. Additionally, Flash cookies can be used to respawn standard cookies that have been deleted by the consumer. Flash developer Adobe has publicly condemned the latter practice in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, and Adobe now offers a tool on its website to manage Flash settings and erase Flash cookies.1
The use of Flash cookies troubles many consumers because it contravenes the currently-understood consumer expectation around managing cookies on their computers. Indeed, the use of Flash cookies, which are not necessarily deleted when a consumer deletes regular cookies from her browser, may well contradict brand advertiser privacy policies.
Some Internet marketing companies that use Flash cookies to create audiences in the behavioral advertising area, along with certain media companies that work with those companies, have been sued recently in several class action lawsuits.
What Does This Mean To You?