A big red exclamation mark appeared in the middle of my monitor. A warning of some desperate danger flashed across the screen. A fate worse than listening to “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning” seemed about to befall me.
The notice declared that a tracking cookie had been detected in the system and advised immediate action. Clicking on “Action” appeared to have the required effect. The security system swung into effect with brisk efficiency.
Not having a clue what a tracking cookie was, I clicked on “Info” to find:
A file that can track your computing activities and report them to a third party.
What was mystifying was not that anyone would write a programme to do something as surreal as tracking my computer activity, but why anyone would want to do such a thing.
Who would want to know that I spent time on the computer today working on the parish magazine and exchanging emails regarding a funeral? What value would such information be to anyone? Perhaps the tracking cookie has been sent out by my bishop to check that clergy might actually be doing something.
Perhaps the cookie is to monitor what websites are visited, but who would want to know?
Perhaps it is an attempt at fraudulently obtaining the £23-10 shillings I have in my Post Office book, but computer fraud, like any fraud depends on gullibility or a lack of due diligence, and my savings book is firmly hidden in a biscuit tin under the mattress.
The scams attempted are nothing new – the email requesting account details for processing millions of dollars apparently has its roots in a scam called the Spanish hostage letter that dates back some 200 years.
Some desperately sad person out there wanted to track something and their cookie has been crumbled into tiny crumbs. However, to cheer them up, here are the bookmarks of my favourite sites to show that my life is even more odd than theirs. If they can find any coherence in the list, then I would be pleased to send them a couple of hundred (I have some Italian lira somewhere).