For years, privacy advocates have criticized the commercial use of “cookies” and other tools to track online customers — now it appears that the National Security Agency (NSA) has used these same methods to find targets for hacking operations.
According to documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the agency was especially fond of a Google-specific tracking mechanism called “PREF” that allows websites to identify a person’s browser, the Washington Post reports.
Once the NSA zeroes in on a target, this cookie allows them to send software that can hack that individual’s computer. Other documents reviewed by the Post indicate Google is aware of the practice.
The company has not yet commented on these latest revelations, but joined other tech firms in calling for an end to bulk collection of user data earlier this week.