Software designer Adobe has issued formal comments to the Federal Trade Communication, backing the passage of proposed online privacy legislation and decrying the misuse of its Flash graphics framework.
The browser cookie respawning feature in Flash could be abused to provide marketing data for search engine optimization (SEO) and other marketing efforts.
Standard HTML cookies – the tiny pieces of code that websites write to the hard drives of users’ PCs to indicate that the user has already visited the site – can be erased by browsers periodically. However, Flash requires local storage to run much of its content, and this can be exploited by unscrupulous marketers to keep tracking cookies in place.
Adobe says that it "condemns this type of misuse of local storage. We encourage developers to use technology responsibly, and certainly not in ways that circumvents the user’s intentions or reasonable expectations."
University of California at Berkeley researchers released a study this summer saying that privacy policies governing local shared content were insufficiently clear and that the Flash functionality was widely misused to "re-instantiate HTTP cookies deleted by the user."