The Cookie May Crumble With 'Do Not Track' List
Today, a group of privacy groups declared war on advertisers by asking the Federal Trade Commission to establish an online Do Not Track list similar to the offline Do Not Call list. The Consumer Federation of America and the World Privacy Forum, among others, want marketers to stop using cookies which enable behavioral targeting.
There has been much debate on the merit of cookies and their use to track online behavior. Marketers argue it makes the online experience better because ads are more closely targeted to the individual. Privacy advocates claim advertisers have no business collecting information about where on the internet someone has gone unless consent has been given.
It's a sticky situation for sure. Cookies help keep ads relevant and, not to be forgotten, aid in making a person's web experience better by remembering an individual's set up preferences for a particular site as well as shopping cart contents and to allow access to password protected sites without having to re-enter login information each time.
Some of the reasoning behind anti-cookie movements are due to misconceptions. While we hope the cause groups in question have done their homework, many people incorrectly believe cookies are spyware and/or viruses when, in fact, they're harmless text files. From a privacy standpoint, people probably should be able to control whether and how their online behavior is tracked. From a simplicity standpoint, the establishment of a Do Not Track function, at least at the outset, could cause confusion and bewilderment until people realize cookies can actually be good and aren't the privacy killing mechanisms some paint them to be.
Still, there's no harm in exploring the cookies place in online marketing and, as a result, other methods that don't tread too heavily on people's right to privacy.