April 2012 Archives

The EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications initially caused quite a stir 12 months ago, but the UK's Information Commissioner's Officestepped in and said that UK firms would have a year to comply with the regulations.  That year is up on 26th May and people are starting to talk about the EU Cookie Law again, however no-one seems to be exactly sure what the implications will be and the ICO is not offering answers to the questions people are asking.

What is the directive about?

The intention of the directive was to combat "tracking cookies" and other similar techniques used by advertising networks to analyse your online behaviour and offer targeted ads to you.  Cookies are small text files, stored on your computer by a website, that contain short pieces of information. These can range from the contents of your shopping basket to a unique (ish) identifier used by large ad networks to track your browsing history.  Whilst the files themselves are harmless, many privacy groups object to the non-consensual tracking of an internet user's browsing habits.  The "unique" identifiers used do not contain any real personal information and cannot track you across different computers or even different browsers on the same machine, however they allow ad networks to build up a profile on the person using that computer based on their browsing habits.  By analysing what sites you visit that contain their adverts, they can make an educated guess of your age and gender and get an insight into what you read about, therefore allowing them to show you adverts that have more relevance to you, in turn allowing them to charge more for the placement of those adverts.
Debian 5 (Lenny) is now out of support it will not be receiving any more security or bug fix updates, meaning an upgrade to 6 (Squeeze) is required.  The procedure is reasonably simple, however if you are using Lenny on a Rackspace Cloud server, you will get an error relating to "dependency based startup".  Furthermore, if you are using MySQL 5, you will need to upgrade that to 5.1 and this itself has a pitfall if you have based your config on the stock my.cnf.  Below is the procedure for upgrading Debian Lenny to Squeeze on Rackspace Cloud with MySQL installed.