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It's a shame - but that's how the cookies crumble

AJ+.COLUMN

In mid November, the EC voted to restrict the use of cookies. It is part of a more general privacy bill still to come.Cookies, says the draft, should be prohibited unless users give explicit and well-informed consent.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, whatever that may be, prophesies the end of civilization and a cost to British advertising agents of the curiously precise sum of £187 million. How does it know that? More to the point, what exactly is wrong with ad agents having to ask my permission to write secret files to my personal hard drive? Of course, in the hands of really responsible and impartial pillars of the community, such as advertising agents, there is absolutely no harm in cookies. But I'd as soon ask an estate agent to run my bank book.

Last month, a hacker blew away the security of Microsoft's much-touted Wallet by opening Hotmail cookies and taking over the victims' financial identities.

Cookies in themselves are harmless - it is what people can do with them. (Find out more at The Register at www. theregister. co. uk. ) Stuart Child kindly suggests we look at an article 'How do I skip the product activation in Windows XP? 'at www. annoyances. org/exec/show/article03-200.The worst thing about XP is that you have to ring up Microsoft (online is not recommended, given the evil empire's track record on security) to get permission to install it. Every time you fit a new hard drive or scanner - or whatever - you have to ring up the Code guardians, explain what you have done and seek renewed permission. The site asks the question: 'So can't I just install Windows XP on five different machines and tell Microsoft that I've upgraded five times?

A: Yes.

'What's to stop me from doing this to install Windows XP on a bunch of different machines?'

A: Not much. Although Microsoft is trying to close this loophole, it is difficult to see how.

sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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