Google Cookies Are Pretty Mundane. So Why Do Spy Agencies Want Them?

Serdar Yegulalp | InfoWorld | December 12, 2013

Google cookies used by the NSA aren't much different from typical Web cookies, but when paired with other info, they can help home in on a particular user

News of how spy agencies are leveraging information exposed by Google's proprietary cookies to track people has inspired a lot of speculation about what in some of Google's cookies has the NSA so interested. The truth is fairly mundane, but a closer look turns up a few intriguing factoids.

Among the Google cookies snorted up by the NSA is the PREF cookie, used to persistently store certain user preferences for Google sites. Its presence and behavior have been known about for quite some time. Google talks about the PREF cookie openly in its "Types of cookies used by Google" page.

By itself, the cookie isn't any different from any other cookie placed by any other website. It can be deleted or blocked manually with no outward ill effects, although Google claims this will affect the quality of one's experiences with Google services. Visiting any of Google's websites -- Google+, Docs, and so on -- causes the cookie to reappear.