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One aspect of the StackExchange privacy policy remains unclear to me:

  1. Do cookies and/or local shared objects (LSO) originating from a StackExchange site visit contain personal information (name, e-mail address, etc.) that could be exploited by third party sites?
  2. Does StackExchange offer an API/infrastructure that would allow third party sites to submit StackExchange cookie or LSO information to obtain my personal information without my consent?

I am asking because I have grown wary, knowing that even European consumer banks are using these big data ripping tactics against their own customers!

The Firefox/Pale Moon add-on Self-Destructing Cookies allows one to fence off such privacy threats by automatically deleting all StackExchange cookies when closing the respective browser tab or ending the browser session. Configuration per site of this add-on literally goes with one mouse click!

However, this cookie protection does come at the cost of a small loss of convenience when visiting StackExchange sites.

It would be fine for StackExchange to become more explicit about this in their privacy policy. This would allow for a less defensive cookie conservation setting ... or not.

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    That's not how cookies work. Your browser only sends cookies to the server that gave them to you. And I'm pretty sure SE sites don't even use Flash at all. – murgatroid99 Jun 15 '15 at 21:02
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    @murgatroid99 OK, but visiting a StackExchange site could still easily drop a number of third-party cookies. Google-Ads and Facebook does this for sure on other sites. I will slightly adapt my question to account for this possibility. – Serge Stroobandt Jun 15 '15 at 22:06
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Do Stack Exchange cookies and/or local shared objects (LSO) contain personal information (name, e-mail address, etc.) that could be exploited by third party sites?

No. Our cookies don't contain obvious PII (personally-identifying information) such as names or emails, and we do not use Flash.

Does Stack Exchange offer an API/infrastructure that would allow third party sites to submit Stack Exchange cookie or LSO information to obtain my personal information without my consent?

Nope.

Well, if someone has your cookie, they can potentially impersonate you, which means they would have your information, but deleting your cookies after your session's over doesn't prevent that, anyway.

Point being, we try hard to avoid being in any way evil when it comes to our users' privacy. We protect any and all PII we get and do not release it, except when required by law and in ways that are described in the privacy policy and terms of service.

We do use some third-party services (such as Google Analytics), but all of that information (visits per day, etc) is being used by us in aggregate and is not submitted to outside parties.


Having said all that, use whatever cookie setting makes you most comfortable. :) Even internally, we have some people who purge cookies at the end of their session. We make no promises that everything will work if you start outright blocking cookies, but just cleaning up after a session shouldn't be too bad.

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  • So, if I visit StackExchange and then visit some other site, can you guarantee me the other site has no means of telling who I am? Are third-party cookies being set when visiting SE that would allow for that? – Serge Stroobandt Jun 15 '15 at 22:16
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    @GinGordon We don't set any cookies aimed at allowing other sites to identify you. – Adam Lear Jun 15 '15 at 22:18
  • That is what I wanted to know. It would be more transparent from your behalf to include that exact sentence in your privacy policy. Privacy policies should always focus on when, how and to whom personal information is shared. – Serge Stroobandt Jun 15 '15 at 22:23

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